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Humboldt State University will discontinue its football program after the 2018 season to help trim its deficit, the university announced on its website. Humboldt, one of 23 campuses in the California State University System, said on Wednesday that the move is part of an effort to cut spending by $9 million and balance its budget by the 2020-21 academic year.

President Lisa Rossbacher said that despite a “tremendous” private fund-raising effort that brought in $329,000, the university decided that football “cannot be sustained through student fees and community giving.” That effort sought to raise $500,000.

At the same time, she said, the university “cannot continue to subsidize budget deficits in athletics without threatening our academic programs.”

Rossbacher said football is the university's most expensive athletic program, costing about $1 million annually. Overall, its athletics department last year ran a $750,000 deficit, up from $250,000 three years ago. Also, the university said, to remain eligible for NCAA Division II competition, it must maintain 10 sports, but football “is not included on that list.”

The decision leaves just one California college with an NCAA Division II football program: Azusa Pacific University, a private evangelical university northeast of Los Angeles.

Cal State said just five of its campuses now support football programs -- and all of the campuses are considerably larger than Humboldt State. Four other campuses eliminated their football programs in the mid-1990s.

Humboldt State said it will honor scholarships for eligible football players through the 2018-19 academic year. Coaches and staff will also help players contact other programs, the university said. At the end of the season, players will get a “full release,” allowing them to play elsewhere.

Players are also being offered academic and financial advising, with access to tutoring and other support services for as long as they are Humboldt students.