The University of Minnesota (UMN) announced Thursday that it will cut four men’s sports due to pandemic-induced financial strains. Men’s indoor/outdoor track and field, gymnastics, and tennis will be cut after the 2020-21 competition season.
Comparatively, the women’s indoor/outdoor track and field, gymnastics, and tennis lost more money than the men’s teams: $4.8 million versus $3.4 million. Other women’s sports cost the school more. Women’s basketball, gymnastics, hockey, swim and dive, and volleyball alone totaled about $14 million in the red.
Although the coronavirus exacerbated already sizable financial concerns, UMN stated that the cuts were a long time coming for another reason: Title IX regulations.
“For the past few years, we had forecasted future sustainability issues, both financial and Title IX related, and although we have directed our efforts to address these challenges while maintaining our current sport offerings, we knew we would be faced with a difficult sports sponsorship decision at some point.”
Although the department is struggling financially, it boasts a cumulative 76 regular-season conference titles across 20 of its 25 programs. Included in the cuts are programs that produced quite a few Olympic athletes.
However, UMN’s athletic department anticipates $75 million in lost revenue. The board discussed this possible scenario back in May. They hoped that pandemic restrictions would lift and revenue losses would be minimized. The department proposed the present team cuts in a meeting with the Board of Regents.
“We are continuously evaluating our program for Title IX compliance. Over the past few years this has included a review and guidance from a nationally recognized outside Title IX expert,” said Athletic Director Mark Coyle. “The number of female students as a percentage of the University’s undergraduate enrollment population has increased in recent years. As a result, we need to take steps to ensure ongoing gender equity in our program.”
Additionally, there will be hiring and spending freezes and most of the athletic department staff will bear a ten percent pay cut. These changes will result in around $3.2 million saved of the projected $75 million.
Other Big Ten schools facing millions in deficits are Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, and Purdue.
Athletes will be able to compete in their 2020-21 competition season if health and safety precautions allow. UMN promises to honor scholarships for the remainder of current athletes’ undergraduate degrees.
The PR Director for UMN didn’t offer a response on this decision’s impact on transgender athletes, or the future plans to offset the remainder of the projected losses.
The final decision is still pending with the school’s Board of Regents.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Minnesota Sun and Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “University of Minnesota High Jumper” by University of Minnesota Cross County and Track and Field.