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Bemidji St. men's track will field team in '09-10

The Bemidji State University men's track and field program will field a team for the 2009-10 academic season.

The decision came Tuesday from BSU Athletic Director Rick Goeb, who announced expectations set by the administration to continue men's indoor and outdoor track have initially been met.

"BSU track and field alums, friends and supporters have demonstrated the support and financial assistance needed to meet University goals to continue the men's track and field programs for another year," Goeb said. "The athletic department extends its gratitude to the program's many friends for their support. Many of our donors made five-year pledges and we sincerely appreciate their ongoing commitment to the success of our track and field programs."

Bemidji State head coach Craig Hougen expressed his appreciation for alumni contributions.

"I am really excited about how our alumni came together," he said. "Men and women from the 40s, 50s and 60s to the present banded together to rally behind this program in order to give others the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level. We had many former athletes that made monetary donations. Their generosity and support provided the boost we needed to meet our goals."

Last October the administration unveiled a restructuring plan for the athletic department. That plan included, in part, a proposal to discontinue men's indoor and outdoor track and field at the conclusion of the 2008-09 academic year.

Following a comprehensive review of available options, BSU President Jon Quistgaard sought and received input on the original proposal. The administration then established an alternative solution that allowed the continuation of the men's track program beyond spring 2009.

That solution required meeting private fundraising goals and the management participation goals within the athletic department. It also required additional steps be taken to improve the overall competitive position of the Division II programs.

The goals to be met in order to ensure the long-term stability of the men's indoor and outdoor track and field include:

- Fundraising to hire an assistant coach and an increase in scholarships, with a focus to expand the women's track and field and cross country programs.

- Comprehensive roster-management effort within the BSU athletic department. This will affect most, if not all, Division II athletic programs.

- A focus on expanding participation opportunities for female student athletes.

- A continued emphasis on competitiveness for all Division II athletic programs.

The next phase of this process is to hire an assistant coach. According to Goeb, the search process is underway. Goeb said the additional coaching position for track and field and the increase in available scholarship money will only continue through fundraising from alumni and friends of BSU track and field.

"Bemidji State is the track center of northern Minnesota. By meeting these guidelines, we are going to be able to continue in that role," Hougen said. "Hiring an assistant coach will allow us to reach more student athletes, bring more of them to campus and we are going to be able to provide them with more instruction and hope to be more successful. This was a good challenge and we've initially met it. Now we just have to keep getting better."

Economic conditions in the state of Minnesota, and how those conditions impact funding levels at Bemidji State, will continue to be closely monitored and will play a role in any decision regarding men's track and field beyond spring 2010.