St. Cloud State University football players emerge from a tunnel before a game against University of Mary in August 2018 at Husky Stadium. St. Cloud State University is cutting its football and golf programs, citing financial pressures and Title IX compliance. (Photo Courtesy of Paul Middlestaedt via MPR)

St. Cloud State University officials said Tuesday the university will eliminate its football program as well as its men’s and women’s golf programs in moves intended to ease financial pressures and comply with federal rules balancing men’s and women’s athletics.

The university said it would also add men’s soccer to its athletic mix.

The changes will take the overall athletic program offerings from 19 to 17 – six male and 11 female sports – at the beginning of the 2020 academic year, directly affecting about 115 students, seven head and assistant coaches, and two graduate assistant coaches, the university said in a statement.

“We made this extremely difficult decision because St. Cloud State faces a convergence of circumstances that required us to change our athletics offerings,” said St. Cloud State President Robbyn Wacker.

In August, a federal judge ruled St. Cloud State needed to take immediate steps to bring gender equity to its athletic programs.

Ten female athletes sued St. Cloud State alleging that the school is out of compliance with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in programs that receive federal funds.

In early 2016, St. Cloud State eliminated six men’s and women’s athletic programs including tennis, women’s Nordic skiing, and men’s cross country.

St. Cloud State on Tuesday cited a growing athletics deficit of more than $1.6 million over the past four years and said ending football and golf will cut overall athletics program expenses.

Adding men’s soccer lets the school meet the rules of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, which now requires a men’s championship sport be offered in the fall. The conference used to require schools to have football but changed that recently.

A soccer program is also less expensive to run than football and appeals to the state’s growing diversity, officials said.

“Football’s a much larger program, requires a lot more resources,” said St. Cloud State spokesperson Adam Hammer. “Men’s soccer is a smaller program to be able to manage. And also we chose soccer because it’s just one of those sports that’s growing in popularity throughout the state and throughout the country.”

Hammer called the cuts “one of the hardest decisions the university has made.”

Separately Tuesday, the University of Minnesota Crookston announced it will discontinue its football program, saying the recently completed 2019 season was the last as a varsity sport.

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