UNK drops baseball at the end of this season
The modern era of UNK baseball has existed since 1961 and exudes a rich history with 21 all-americans, nine who ultimately were selected in the major league draft, and seven seasons of at least 30 wins.
Now the program is three months out from becoming history.
"Today's a rough day," said head coach Damon Day, who is in his 15th year. "There's no way to sugar coat it, but it's going to be a life lesson to a lot of us and it's going to be something that we're going to pick ourselves up."
A little before noon on Monday, Day was informed this would be his final season coaching Loper Baseball as the school was disbanding the program.
"To say that I was kind of caught off guard would be an understatement. To say that I'm disappointed would be an understatement," Day said.
There's reason for surprise. Fresh off a road–trip in which the Lope Show nearly toppled No. 1 rated Delta State, Athletics Director Dr. Paul Plinske tweeted out his pride for Team 58, only to drop the hammer two days later.
"We're at a point now where this difficult, gut–wrenching decision had to be made and we were unequivocally unsustainable at this time," said Plinske.
UNK baseball wasn't cheap to run; it cost $269,787 between operating ($162,718) and salary ($107,069) expenses, but the Lopers had healthy financial backers who helped defray those numbers. They recently raised over $110,000 at the Upper Deck Banquet.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone on behalf of the UNK team and the baseball players just for everything the Kearney community has done," Day says.
Now, questions about the new destination of those big dollars may arise over the coming days.
"I'll gladly field any phone call or any text message on those types of questions, but we're probably going to have to wait for our AD and our administration to say those things," Day responded.
"Much of the money raised was raised for this current year to be able to put those athletes on the field and do the many things that we need to be able to do with that," said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen. "The athletic department is a lot of hand to mouth. You raise money right away and very little of it is endowed."
While the coaches and players search for the next step in life, they're taking this abrupt detour like a 3-2 breaking ball.
"If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me and my family or with me and my players than I'll consider myself a lucky person," says Day. "I have a lot to be blessed about.
"My players have families that love them and they have a tremendous amount to be blessed about. I appreciate all the kind words and all the support you've shown for us and the baseball program and come out and finish the season strong for our guys."
This move is even more stunning considering the Lopers recently renovated the baseball facilities one year ago.