March 14, 2002 11:00 pm

The days of junior varsity sports at Eastern Oregon University are over.

Issues about travel safety, finances and finding quality competition have led to the athletic departments shutting down the men and womens JV basketball programs.

Basketball was the last sport at Eastern to have a JV program, and squads had not received official funding for the past few years.

They were either fund-raised or lottery dollars, said Eastern Oregon Athletic Director Rob Cashell. It hasnt been a part of our student-fee allocation for a number of years.

Travel safety was also part of the decision, Cashell said. Players and coaches rode in cramped vans and slept with four to a room at motels on away trips.

We werent able to travel with these athletes safely, he said.

Finding adequate competition also posed a problem. Eastern was the only school in the Cascade Collegiate Conference with JV teams, so the Mountaineers were forced to play regional community colleges and JV teams from larger-division schools, which resulted in unbalanced contests that put Eastern on the losing end.

We were unable to find like competition in our region, and we werent providing a positive experience for our athletes, Cashell said.

The mens JV program finished 1-11 and lost nine of its games by 20 or more points, including 70-point, 56-point and 46-point margins of defeat.

The womens team had a little more success, with a 5-9 record, but still struggled by dropping eight games by 17 or more points.

In return for discontinuing the JV programs, Cashell said the varsity teams will likely increase their roster spots by one to three players.

That way, the players will have a better experience, theyll be learning the game and hopefully playing for the varsity down the road, he said.

EOU softballers split

COLLEGE PLACE, Wash. The Eastern Oregon Mountaineers softball team split a doubleheader Sunday with Walla Walla College.

Eastern (3-3 overall) clobbered Walla Walla 17-0 in the first game. Walla Walla edged the Mountaineers 3-2 in the second game.

The winning run in the second game came from Jennifer Verhelle, who hit a run-scoring double in the third inning.

Easterns Kathy Bielemeier smacked two home runs on the day. Crissie Bacon also belted out a home run.

Eastern will travel to Hawaii to face Hawaii Pacific University, Brigham Young University-Hawaii and Chaminade University the week of March 24.