MacMurray College
MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill. The school is closing after 174 years in operation. (MacMurray College/Facebook photo)

JACKSONVILLE (Heartland Newsfeed/Midwest Sports Network) — Amidst ongoing fiscal issues, a central Illinois collegiate institution is closing its doors.

MacMurray College‘s board of directors announced Friday that the 174-year-old institution will be shutting down at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Additionally, the news was delivered by board chairman and 1969 alum Charles O’Connell via the website and on YouTube.

Special Announcement - MacMurray College

MacMurray’s board stated that there was no viable financial path forward. Contributing factors included continued declining enrollments, rising costs of higher education and a very small financial endowment. O’Connell expressed his thanks to Dr. Beverly Rodgers for her work while serving as president.

Dr. Rodgers became the 17th and final president of the college last year.

“Our students remain our top priority,” Dr. Rodgers declared. “Faculty and staff have gone the extra mile in transferring all our classes to online and remote learning formats — practically overnight.”

Rodgers added that MacMurray has signed transfer agreements for its current students with seven area colleges.

“We will assist all students in their transfer needs, helping them ensure they are able to complete their degrees,” Rodgers says. “We will also support our faculty and staff in their transitions to other positions.”

COVID-19 epidemic not the principal reason for MacMurray closure

The COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic was among recent factors that complicated the fiscal condition of the college. It is stated that it was not a principal reason for the Board’s closure decision.

The decision’s impact on MacMurray Highlander sports

MacMurray, an NCAA Division III school based in Jacksonville, Ill., was active in athletics. The college had memberships with the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) as well as the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC).

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The school’s closure leaves SLIAC with nine member schools. Additionally, UMAC will have eight member schools.

Athletic director Chris Douglas did not state much, referring to a blanket statement from his office. The statement, referring to all higher education athletic programs, did not mention much as a result. However, it grants permission to athletic directors and coaches to contact student-athletes currently or formerly affiliated with MacMurray College athletics.

“We are prepared to receive eligibility inquiries on our current athletes,” states Douglas in the statement.

UMAC acknowledges the closure

UMAC made their own statement Friday, stating the school’s closure would result in an eight-member football conference for 2020.

Commissioner Corey Borchardt states, “We recognize that the landscape of higher education is continually evolving and presenting institutions with a variety of challenges related to fiscal stability.”

“UMAC members empathize with MacMurray’s Board of Trustees and campus leadership as the institution chose to make a difficult decision during this unprecedented chapter in intercollegiate athletics,” Borchardt adds.

The remaining member schools are making contingency plans for the 2020 football campaign. As a result, those plans include the immediate development of updated football schedules for 2020 and beyond.

MacMurray joined as an associate member of UMAC in 2009, along with three other schools. As a result, this helped the conference secure an automatic NCAA tournament qualifying bid in 2011.

“The UMAC appreciates that MacMurray was able to be a contributing and successful associate member over the last 11 seasons,” said Borchardt.

Borchardt adds, “We wish the best for all of the institution’s coaches, staff and student-athletes as they move forward during this difficult time.”

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Limited response from SLIAC

There was not much coming from the SLIAC in remarks to comments via their website. However, there was a brief response via Twitter:

News that we never want to hear. Thoughts are with entire MacMurray campus and hoping for the best for everyone in the future.

Local SLIAC affiliates in addition to MacMurray were Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill. and Greenville University in Greenville, Ill.

Requests for comment from SLIAC Commissioner Dick Kaiser were not returned.

Midwest Sports Network was the original publisher of this article.

Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network and a contributing writer for My Sports Vote, Ambush Sports and Midwest Sports Network. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dogs Sparky and Buster.

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