In an effort to better prioritize campus resources, the University of Rhode Island’s Athletic Department announced that they would be completely shutting down several sports programs in order to focus on the school’s gladiatorial combat team. This controversial move centers around the dissolution of approximately 80 percent of university-affiliated sports, with associated staff being reassigned to help coach fighters, wrangle training lions and otherwise contribute to the success of the competitive fighting team.

URI is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, however, they are the only school in the country to have Division 1 ranked gladiators. Despite this, the program has received criticism from many Athletic Department staffers in the past for being “weak,” “feeble” and “lacking in bloodlust”.

URI’s Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn recognizes the significance of the division ranking, but also understands the critiques of the program, saying in an exclusive interview with The Vape that, “There is so much more that the University could be doing to promote its young, up-and-coming armed combatants.”

Bjorn continued, strapping on thick leather armor as he spoke, “This change, while seemingly drastic, is definitely a step in the right direction. The school has been spread thin between the popular programs, like soccer, and several more obscure ones, like ‘basketball.’ Cutting back on some of the more extraneous branches of University athletics will allow for more resources to be diverted to the underfunded archaic combat team.”

The Athletic Director finished affixing his helmet and, sheathing his short sword, concluded his impassioned dialogue, “At the end of the day, we just want these kids to A, have fun, and B, seize honor for the Rhode Island Rams through the righteous glory of trial-by-combat.”

Bjorn then locked himself in the Keaney Gymnasium weightlifting room with a live tiger in order to demonstrate to onlookers how to best take down an opponent several times one’s own size.

Among other benefits, the revitalized gladiator program hopes to funnel much of its expanded budget into new equipment for its athletes. This includes new gladius swords, nets, tridents, spears, shields, helmets, basic plate armor and possibly even war chariots. Beasts for the warriors to fight at home matches such as bears, leopards, Caspian tigers and black panthers are also on the docket. With these new upgrades and additional staff on hand, many athletes are hoping that the program will be able to expand the types of gladiatorial classes offered through URI.

“Up until this point the University has only catered to the traditional hoplomachus gladiator style, with the occasional dual-sword-wielding dimachaerus when the budget allowed for it,” Daniel Spartacus, sophomore and prospective gladiator, said. “But now, it looks like there will be other options, like the popular net-and-trident-armed retiarius. I might even be able to pursue my personal dream of being a gallus, fighting as a heavy-weight prisoner-of-war.”

The Athletic Department is currently looking at proposals to bulldoze one of URI’s many parking lots to make way for a proper Colosseum.