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Humboldt State to cancel football after 2018 season

Humboldt State will cancel football after the 2018 season, the school announced Tuesday. Players and coaches were informed earlier today.

School president Lisa Rossbacher deemed it a "necessary" step in furthering the university's mission.

"Our football team has been an important source of pride for our students, staff, and alumni, as well as our regional community," Rossbacher said. "Sadly, and despite a tremendous fund drive effort, we found that football cannot be sustained through student fees and community giving. At the same time, the University cannot continue to subsidize budget deficits in Athletics without threatening our academic programs."

The program, which competes in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference of Division II, went through a lengthy and (temporarily) successful fight for its survival last season. The program was actually killed on Dec. 4 of last year, but revived hours later. Despite the uncertainty lording over the program, Humboldt State went 8-2 in 2017. The team drew an average of 3,516 spectators for five home games.

Program supporters blamed university leadership for football's struggles, and head coach Rob Smith resigned in January and aired his grievances in a lengthy letter blasting university leadership:

To even the most casual observer, the entire process has been handled in a haphazard, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable manner. Some underclass players were granted their NCAA releases with absolutely no consultation with the head coach. Indeed, this was discovered only after the fact through social media posts. The coaching staff and their families, despite their loyalty, dedication, and hard work have been placed in an utter state of chaos and uncertainty for many months, and through the many delays in the decision-making process. This process was extremely unfair to each of these fine coaches, and already has resulted in valuable assistant coaches leaving the program.

Defensive backs coach Damaro Wheeler was promoted to head coach following Smith's resignation. The program lists just eight coaches on its official website.

The school's announcement cited a $750,000 budget shortfall within the football program. A $500,000 drive in January to support the program drew only $329,000 in donations, the school said. The school has also seen a five percent drop in enrollment, to 8,347, and acknowledged canceling football will increase that drop.

Humboldt State's final season will begin Sept. 1 at Midwestern State. The final scheduled home game is Nov. 3 against Azusa Pacific, and the Lumberjacks' final scheduled game is Nov. 10 at Simon Fraser.