The University of Nevada athletics department announced that it will discontinue its sponsorship of rifle as an intercollegiate program following the 2018-19 season, and the Wolf Pack will add men's cross country as an official sport as part of the Mountain West Conference and NCAA beginning in the fall of 2019.
The moves aim to strengthen the Wolf Pack's alignment within the Mountain West Conference as the institution continues to grow and evolve in its seventh year in the league. The Mountain West is an elite-level conference for men's distance running as four MW schools finished among the top 18 in final rankings by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association this year.
"After a long period of careful consideration and a thorough evaluation of our intercollegiate athletics program, we feel these moves best represent Wolf Pack athletics in the current intercollegiate athletics landscape and our future within the NCAA and the Mountain West Conference," President Marc Johnson said.
The University will continue to fund the rifle program through the completion of the current season, and will honor scholarships and continue to provide academic and related support through graduation for current rifle student-athletes.
Nevada has a proud history when it comes to distance running on the men's side. The Wolf Pack won 11 conference championships within the West Coast Athletic Conference and the Big Sky Conference from 1970 through 1983. Nevada also won a Far Western Conference title and an NCAA College Division championship in 1968.
In the final 2018 men's rankings by the USTFCCCA, four of the MW's eight schools finished in the top 20: No. 9 Boise State, No. 13 Air Force, No. 14 Colorado State and No. 18 Wyoming, with Utah State also receiving votes in the poll.
The Wolf Pack also has historical success as a rifle program, but the sport has struggled to maintain its place within the NCAA as only 23 Division I programs currently sponsor the sport. Of those 23, only one (the Air Force Academy) is in the Mountain West and only three are located west of the Rocky Mountains. In total, fewer than 30 institutions across all NCAA divisions continue to sponsor the sport, and six are service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard) or military-related institutions (The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute).
"These are not easy decisions, and we've gone to great lengths to examine, identify and chart the best course of action for Nevada athletics," Athletics Director Doug Knuth said. "Our department is forever thankful for the service and dedication of Fred Harvey, our rifle coach of 23 years and a longtime University employee, as well as the many distinguished student-athletes who competed for our rifle program over the years."