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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Odessa College makes tough decision to shelve program - Odessa American: Basketball

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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Odessa College makes tough decision to shelve program

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Posted: Friday, June 26, 2020 8:22 pm

The Odessa College women’s basketball team was preparing for its fourth consecutive trip to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament when the coronavirus pandemic slammed the door shut on sports at all levels.

In the ensuing three months, the Lady Wranglers have watched several key members of the team sign with four-year colleges, recruiting efforts curtailed because of the virus and in a final hit to the program, longtime coach Ara Baten hired away by Western Junior College Athletic Conference-rival South Plains College.

Add all the pieces together and it’s easy to see why the school made the difficult decision Thursday to furlough the women’s program for a season until the 2021-22 school year.

A release from the school stated, “Due to the unprecedented developments of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unknown, immediate future of NJCAA Athletics, combined with a needed restructuring of the Women’s Basketball Program coaching staff, the decision to suspend Women’s Basketball is the best course of action.”

The team had just four players remaining on the roster and they have been released to find other schools. If they choose to stay at Odessa College, their scholarships will be honored.

Men’s basketball coach Kris Baumann, part of the search committee for a new women’s coach, said that the decision wasn’t made lightly by Athletic Director Wayne Baker and school president Gregory D. Williams.

“It was an enormous decision,” Baumann said. “The success the women’s basketball program has had, there are national championship banners hanging in the gym.

“I’m sure it was a thought-out process, with the way things are and with the information they had in front of them. So with COVID, no coach, not as many athletes in the program as there normally would be at this time, it all led to the decision.”

The school is fully committed to putting the women’s basketball team back on the court in 2021-22, which is more than several schools across the nation can say after eliminating entire athletic departments during the pandemic.

Baumann is sure of one thing when the Lady Wranglers return.

“Dr. Williams and Wayne don’t want to do anything where Odessa College isn’t going to put its best team out there,” Baumann said. “When they bring it back, it will be a national-championship caliber team on the court.”

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