ASPEN - Aspen High School will have one fewer varsity squad taking the field this fall.
The administration has decided to drop softball for at least the 2010 season. The move, which was publicly discussed at a school board meeting in May, primarily was made because of waning interest in the sport and not as a cost-cutting measure, athletic director Carol Sams said Thursday.
The idea has been broached for the last few years, she added.
"I feel so badly for the girls that are committed to softball, but the number of girls is so minimal that it's hard to keep the program going," Sams said. "A large group of middle school girls play in the summer ... but in the fall so many of them go to volleyball. It makes it hard to keep a competitive [softball] program.
"I don't want people to think this is a budget cut. ... [This move] will be a small savings for the athletic budgets as a whole."
The Skiers graduated eight players from 2009's team, which had just one freshman on the roster, Sams said.
"You never want to have to cut a program or suspend a program," Sams added. "I know there are kids in the program who are interested in playing, and I hate that they're not able to."
Sams said that she and the administration are encouraging some girls to play with Basalt this fall. She has talked with Longhorns head coach Bruce Matherly, who Thursday said he would welcome Aspen players into the fold.
One player, Savannah Johnson, has joined Basalt for summer-league games.
"I have a real good relationship with [former Skiers head coach] Jeremy [Haack], and mentioned to him that everyone who wants to come down is welcome to," Matherly said. "Obviously, our first preference would be for them to continue as a team in the league.
"I think they always got up for us, and we did for them. You never really knew what was going to happen - records at that moment went right out the window. A couple years back, we were rolling pretty well and they came down and thumped us. It's a matchup we'll certainly miss."
Sams said she is optimistic that, should interest increase, the program will be restored in a year or two.
Haack, who informed Sams after last season that he would not be returning as coach in 2010 - a decision the athletic director said had no bearing on cutting the program - echoes that sentiment.
"My hope is that it comes back," Haack said. "I think it will. There is a lot of interest at the younger levels."
Sams also confirmed Thursday that her position has been reduced to part-time. That was one of a myriad of options discussed at May's board meeting, when cost-cutting proposals were introduced in response to decreased state funding.
"I don't want it to sound like this was the board's decision and I didn't have anything to say about it," Sams said. "I was willing to give it a try and see if it could work."