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Saint Augustine’s University Suspends Football Program Due To Financial Strain

Updated: May 6

As reported by BLACK ENTERPRISE, the financial struggles of Saint Augustine's University (SAU) have reached a critical point, with the historically Black institution facing the potential loss of its accreditation and the suspension of its football program. The university's Interim President, Dr. Marcus Burgess, outlined the dire situation in an interview with CBS 17, detailing a mounting financial burden that threatens the school's very survival.

"It will take roughly 27 to 28 million dollars and 30 million for good judgment because there's still deferred maintenance pieces that have to happen," Burgess explained, highlighting the extensive repairs and upgrades needed to address years of neglect.

The university's financial woes have been compounded by a series of setbacks, including a staggering three-month period where employees went without pay, a shift to virtual instruction, and ongoing negotiations with utility companies and vendors.

"I have had employees tell me they're sticking by us, but it's really tough. I am in the same situation because the bills keep coming," Burgess acknowledged, underscoring the shared hardship facing the SAU community.

Despite the challenges, Burgess remains steadfast in his commitment to the institution, vowing to see the battle through to the end. "I have not thought about leaving in spite of what people may think. I am here until the job is done," he declared.

The university's financial crisis has far-reaching implications, potentially derailing the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former football coach Howard Feggins, who was let go in 2023. With the university unlikely to have the funds to defend the case, Feggins may never get his day in court, according to Sports Illustrated.

The mounting financial pressure has also attracted the attention of tax authorities and vendors. Earlier this year, the IRS filed a $7.9 million tax lien against the university for two years of unpaid taxes, while FieldTurfUSA, the company responsible for the artificial turf field, has sought payment of $598,000 through a separate lien. Adding to the turmoil, former President Christine McPhail has sued the university, alleging racial and gender discrimination by the predominantly male Board of Trustees.

In an attempt to address the financial crisis, the university has launched a fundraising campaign, aiming to raise $5 million. So far, alumni have rallied to support the effort, contributing $224,182. SAU graduate Olivia Huckaby, who is spearheading the '18.67 Challenge' campaign, expressed concern about the school's predicament.

"It's a little unsettling, I'll be honest. All alumni chapters for the university are running the '18.67 Challenge,'" she said. "You can donate $18.67, which is the year we were founded, to help support those fundraising efforts."

As the university grapples with these challenges, the future remains uncertain. However, the determination of Interim President Burgess and the commitment of the SAU community offer a glimmer of hope in the face of adversity.

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