Cincinnati Cuts Men’s Soccer: A Canary in the Coal Mine for College Athletics

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.

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.

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2 years ago

Looks like it is already happening at the D2 level in Austin. This is going to be a scary few months…

2 years ago

All Swimming is coming next. This is the first step to paying Basketball and Football Players. They are using the budget and the pandemic to fuel this agenda.

2 years ago

Heyyyy transfersss!

2 years ago

Sobering article. If we are shut down in the fall and thru the holidays, swimming will be the least of
our worries. The entire US and world economy, including healthcare, will collapse. Essentially, the apocalypse. We think now there will be winners and losers but we will all just be material losers. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

2 years ago

It doesn’t matter. I’ve learned that school administrators don’t give a damn about anything but football, basketball and baseball and definitely don’t give a damn about the students. They, per usual, will be a blip on Swimswam with a lot of chit chat but nothing being done by anyone (grassroots, NCAA, USA swimming) to stem any of this. Swimming will soon have an elite 30-40 programs at D1 and the rest will be in D2 and 3.

2 years ago

Second time today I’ve seen “a canary in the coal mine” in use 🤔

Reply to  612
2 years ago

Love that Police song!

Hot takes:
2 years ago

Hot Take: if you’re a mid major school with an average football team, then you should cut football first it’s a money pit. ADs are always so incredibly biased towards football even at small schools where it’s simply a large burden on the athletic department. Note I’m aware Cincinnati has a decent football team and this may not apply to them.

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Right. All these cuts involve paying out scholarships for those who stay and don’t transfer. Do the math on some percentage of 85 kids per class that stay and claim their scholarship money for the rest of their 4 years……….

Reply to  deepsouth
2 years ago

unless laws have changed in the past ten years, that is not necessarily true. I was on a team that got cut after my freshman year and the school would not honor the athletic scholarships

Reply to  deepsouth
2 years ago

Scholarships are usually year to year anyway, not 4-year guarantees. So if the football program folds they are not required to fund the remaining years of school for the athletes.

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

You can sell the land or rent out the stadiums. Long term, I think cutting football is a money saver for many, maybe most schools. And it also puts them in compliance with Title IX.

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Damn swimswam writers always got that slightly passive aggressive shade in the comments 😂

Reply to  DLswim
2 years ago

Keep waiting on that to happen

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

And the income generated at football games through alumni donations

Reply to  Braden Keith
2 years ago

Schools that may want to cut football can’t in-order to stay in their conference. Football and Basketball are often required sports for Div. 1 schools

Reply to  Hot takes:
2 years ago

You are missing the point on football and basketball. Its not nessessarily about the direct revenue that they create. Its about the interest that the team provides to the average applicant. If they can get more applicants, they are better able to select for kids that can pay full tuition AND increase their selectivity scores which is a critical component in school rankings.

2 years ago

Get ready. Men’s swimming is going to be a prime target. ESP if there are facility needs.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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