WATERTOWN, Wis. --- The Athletic Department and Executive Council of Maranatha Baptist University have announced the retirement of the Maranatha Sabercats Football Program. The program's end is effective immediately, marking the 2016 season as the last in its 47-year history.
The decision to discontinue the program was made following the resignation of Head Coach Nate Spate, which triggered a comprehensive evaluation of the program by the Athletics Department. Through the pre-established program evaluation process, the department met with key stakeholders, gathered documentation related to recruiting, safety, and sustainability of the program, and reviewed the handling of similar challenges faced at peer institutions.
The department's report resulted in the unanimous recommendation of the Athletics Committee and was then accepted by Maranatha's Executive Council with the support of the Board of Trustees. According to MBU Director of Athletics, Rob Thompson, the decision was made primarily for the well-being and safety of the student-athletes, with additional consideration given to recruiting challenges, eroding constituent support of football in general, and declining player retention.
"The fact is," said Dr. Matt Davis, Executive Vice President of MBU, "several of our former competitors - regional colleges our size - have eliminated their football programs which has left us traveling farther distances to play larger schools. Added to that dynamic is the fact that 80-plus percent of MBU students come from Christian schools and home schools in the midwest that do not play high school football. These external realities beyond our control have greatly hampered the Sabercats' ability to build a sustainable roster large enough to safely meet the unique demands of football."
Dr. Marty Marriott, President of MBU, had this to say about football at MBU: "When I became the president in 2010, we recognized that the football program was struggling to remain viable. Since that time, we have devoted substantial resources to shore up the program including the hiring of two outstanding head coaches to lead the program. Coach Andy Peterson, and most recently Coach Nate Spate worked tirelessly with their players to build upon the solid foundation of retired Coach Terry Price in developing the character of the young men who play football at MBU. I thank God for the permanent legacy of godliness these men have built into their players through the game of football."
"Certainly, no one enjoys witnessing the end of a program, especially those who have personally invested their time, talent and effort in the program," stated Thompson. "While we understand the short-term impact is uncertain, we know that this decision was the right one to make.
"The history and culture of football is unique, and it will be missed. That being said, our future is focused on our strengths and our ability to sustain safe and viable intercollegiate athletic teams.
"This has been the most difficult decision that we have faced during my tenure as athletic director," stated Thompson. "But we understand that God opens and closes doors of opportunity."
In their final season of play, the Sabercats finished with a 3-7 record with wins over Martin Luther, Trinity Bible, and Robert Morris-Peoria.