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Virgin Islands decides against NCAA membership, says too costly

December 7, 1997

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) _ Citing severe cash shortages, the University of the Virgin Islands board voted Sunday against permanent membership in the top U.S. intercollegiate sports association.

The school became a provisional member of the NCAA in 1995 and was expected to secure full membership next year.

But the $18.4 million budget needed to fund a competitive NCAA program was too steep, board members said in rejecting the move.

The university is currently suffering its worst-ever fiscal crisis, largely due to the government’s failure to release some $11 million in funding for the 1996-1998 school years.

The athletic program’s provisional status bars it from participating in most U.S. intercollegiate sporting events.

``We were supposed to become an active member of the NCAA in June of 1998, but that’s just not going to happen,″ university spokeswoman Jessica Thorpe said.

Local interest in collegiate sports has soared since Tim Duncan of St. Croix became the NBA’s top draft pick in 1996. Duncan, who graduated from Wake Forest University in North Carolina, now plays for the San Antonio Spurs.

Buoyed by Duncan’s success, the university last year retained former University of Kentucky assistant coach Jim Hatfield, who prepared a squad to compete at the Division-II level.

But in October, university officials terminated his contract, accusing him of making financial commitments the university was not prepared to honor.

The university plans to remain a member of the less costly Caribbean University Sports Association.

``NCAA rules and regulations are complex and costly to administer,″ said university president Orville Kean. ``CUSA has no binding rules that are costly to administer.″

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