The University of Cincinnati has cut their men’s soccer team, which is being viewed around the country as a possible canary-in-the-coal-mine leading a wave of sports being cut around the country.
The school’s athletics director John Cunningham started his announcement of the move on Tuesday with an allusion to the challenges presented by the coronavirus shutdown, though he didn’t directly tie the two together.
During this time of profound challenges and widespread uncertainty, I have intensified my effort to study and consider the broad spectrum of the UC Athletics Department. This has included a comprehensive and thorough review of our sport offerings and the long-term budget implications of supporting the number of student-athletes currently at UC.
Cunningham was hired in December.
The NCAA already announced that, due to the cancellation of the men’s NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, they would reduce payout to Division I schools this year by $375 million. That is one of many possible financial fallouts for athletics departments amid the global coronavirus pandemic. If the shutdown extends into the fall, schools have projected massive losses. In one example, according to The Athletic, 14% of Iowa State’s $87.55 budget for the 2020 fiscal year comes from projected football ticket sales, with another $34 million of distribution from the Big 12 being football related. That adds up to almost half of the department’s annual budget being funded by football.
At some schools, like Nebraska, there will be additional losses due to the cancellation of women’s volleyball season – several colleges have profitable volleyball programs as well.
This is in addition to possible cuts in funding from donors who have seen their personal fortunes hit.
The commissioner of the American Athletic Conference, of which Cincinnati is a member, says that they’re also considering canceling or drastically reducing the size of Olympic sports conference championship events.
Collegiate swimming sponsorship has seen growth over the last 5 years, though most of that growth has been through addition of Division II, Division III, and especially NAIA programs. This is in addition to some high-profile Division I cuts, including recently the men’s team at Eastern Michigan, the women’s team at Oregon State, the men’s team at Buffalo, the men’s and women’s teams at North Dakota, and the men’s and women’s teams at Wright State.
On net, there are 24 more men’s swimming & diving programs and 26 more women’s swimming and diving programs now than there were in the 2015-2016 season. That includes a gain of 4 men’s D2 programs, 21 men’s D3 programs, 11 women’s D2 programs, and 16 women’s D3 programs.
Nicole Auerbach, a senior writer for The Athletics, observed on Twitter that among speculation that more cuts are coming, some will be opportunistic: departments that have been looking for a reason to cut programs will now have the excuse to do so.
Cutting sports sucks. But it's going to keep happening, and some of it will be opportunistic — the school had been wanting to cut that sport, but the current crisis gives them a reason to do it now. That also sucks, but it will happen as well as those cut out of necessity.
— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) April 14, 2020
In 2017, Joel Shinofield, then Executive Director of the Collegiate Swimming Coaches’ Association, provided SwimSwam with sample budgets for swimming programs at different levels for an article in SwimSwam Magazine. While all programs have different budgets, the data he provided included these ranges for costs of a collegiate swimming program.
|Power 5||FCS||Division II||Division II|
|High||$ 5,364,000||$ 2,790,000||$ 1,404,000||$ 606,100|
|Low||$ 1,351,000||$ 152,800||$ 56,900||$ 8,400|
|Mean||$ 2,687,000||$ 908,206||$ 443,800||$ 157,700|
The Cincinnati men’s soccer team had a 5-11-1 record in the 2019 season, including a 1-5-1 record in American Athletic Conference play. The team shared a 1,400 seat stadium with the women’s soccer team and the track & field program. Coach Hylton Dayes resigned at the end of the season after 19 seasons with the program. The team qualified for the NCAA tournament on 3 occasions, losing in the opening round in all 3 tries.