VERO BEACH, Fla. — Josh Navarro spends time rowing in Vero Beach, but one thing sits heavy on his mind.
"Going from varsity to club is really damaging, and I sat there at work and I had a really long shift just thinking about it, and I was crushed," Navarro told WPTV on Thursday. "Like I said, this sport kind of became my life."
His university, Florida Institute of Technology, decided to drop five varsity sports programs to club status, including men's rowing, women's rowing, men's cross country/distance track, women's cross country/distance track and men's golf.
"What made me decide on FIT was the fact they had a wonderful rowing team," Navarro said. "They had a great coach, a good group of guys."
He said the move not only means his team no longer competes at the NCAA level, but it will also impact recruitment, funding, scholarships and travel.
"This happened in the middle of the summer," Navarro said. "School applications close, rosters fill up on rowing teams, so it's really hard to transfer out. I want to be able to row at a varsity level. I want to be able to have that. I want all of my team to have that. I want all of the other athletes on the other team to have that."
Navarro said he plans on staying at FIT and the school will continue to honor his scholarship.
But he fears what it means for the programs moving forward.
"For future people in this sport coming from Florida and wanting to stay local, that's no longer — FIT will no longer be — an option for those students, who are pretty competitive in high school and want to continue on," his mother, Gina Navarro, told WPTV. "They'll be going to the northeast schools. They will not stay in Florida."
FIT said the decision was to focus on 11-other competitive sports and provide them with more resources.
"Us being as competitive as we are, I think we are the oldest sport in the school — men's rowing — so I think for them to jump and make this decision was just a poor and rushed decision," Josh Navarro said.
There's currently a petition on Change.org to reinstate the programs. It has a goal of 7,500 signatures.