Photo Credit: Minnesota Atheltics
The University of Minnesota became the first major public university competing in a Power Five conference on Thursday to eliminate its men's indoor and outdoor track and field programs, citing a massive shortfall in revenue for the 2020-2021 calendar year.
The move, which impacts 58 student-athletes, still needs approval by Minnesota's Board of Regents.
The Gophers, which compete in the 14-member Big Ten Conference, are in a position like many in big conferences across the country and are dealing with major budgetary constraints as sports seasons continue without revenue.
Minnesota's athletics administration reported that it will cut those two track and field programs, along with men's gymnastics and men's tennis at the conclusion of their 2020-2021 seasons. The Gophers will ultimately lower their varsity sports count down to 21.
In a letter to its alumni and the University of Minnesota community, the Gophers' athletic department wrote that it was facing a "projected loss of revenue of approximately $75 million just this fiscal year," and that the impact of measures put in place due to COVID-19 would be felt for "years to come." The cost-saving moves were vital to the sustainability of the athletics department, they wrote.
Along with these moves, Minnesota's athletic department has also issued a "personnel cost-reduction plan" and several head coaches of athletic teams have taken pay cuts.
The move follows one made by William & Mary College last week to also cut men's indoor and outdoor track and field. And it follows moves made by several other colleges in recent months, including Akron, Florida International, Appalachian State and Central Michigan.
Brown University, which decided to ax all three of its men's running and track programs -- cross country and men's indoor and outdoor track -- eventually made a reversal of that move after massive upheaval by the surrounding community and alumni base.
You can find more information about the move at GopherSports.com.
Per the Release:
Is there any sort of fundraising effort to save these sports?
We have tremendous donors who are extremely generous and, as a department, we have experienced record-level fundraising during the past several years. However, as this decision is a combination of financial sustainability and Title IX commitment, we do not believe there is a realistic fundraising goal we could set that would address all the challenges that led to this decision.
Why were these four sports chosen for discontinuation?
Once we determined that we simply are no longer able to sustain 25 sports financially, we reviewed our overall sport offering with an eye toward a sports sponsorship model that would provide sustainable, competitive and equitable participation opportunities for our remaining programs. Due to recent shifts in our female and male undergraduate demographics, we also needed to take steps to ensure compliance with our commitment to provide gender-equitable participation opportunities for our students consistent with federal law requirements. We also considered community impact, local and national interest, competitiveness, and sport sponsorship at the Big Ten and NCAA Division I level.
Will you honor existing athletics scholarships for those student-athletes affected?
Yes, we will honor all existing scholarships for individuals who choose to complete their undergraduate degree at Minnesota.
How will the affected student-athletes be supported?
We will continue to provide the student-athletes of these four programs with athletic, academic and mental health support throughout their 2020-21 competition season. We will also honor all existing athletics scholarships for those affected student-athletes who choose to complete their undergraduate degree at Minnesota, while still providing them with access to academic advising, sports psychology and athletics-related sports medicine services. Should a student-athlete decide to transfer, we will support them through the transition process and will grant them their full release from the University.
How much money will be saved as a result of the program discontinuation?
We anticipate a savings of $2 million in FY22 and an annual savings of $2.7 million once all student-athletes currently on athletics-based aid have graduated.