Conference Commissioners Ask For NCAA To Relax Sponsored Sport Requirements

Commissioners of five mid-major conferences have asked the NCAA to temporarily relax its rules on how many sports a school must sponsor – potentially paving the way for cuts to non-revenue sports.

Yahoo Sports reports that the commissioners of the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Mid-American Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Conference-USA wrote a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert on behalf of all Division I schools. The commissioners cite economic hardships due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and ask for temporary breaks from several NCAA rules. A few of the key requests:

  • A 4-year relaxation of the NCAA‘s requirement of Division I schools to sponsor at least 16 varsity sports
  • Lifting minimum requirements for scholarship spending to athletes
  • Lifting requirements for paid attendance at home football games
  • A moratorium on schools moving into Division I

The commissioners said the request was not made with the intention of cutting sports, but giving athletic departments flexibility in decision-making. That assurance, though, is contrasted with the fact that on the same day the letter came to light, Cincinnatti (a member of one of the conferences that wrote the letter) cut its men’s soccer program to cut costs. Another school in one of the five named conferences, Old Dominion of C-USA, cut wrestling earlier this month.

Relaxing the rules could allow schools to cut programs or cut scholarships within programs. We’ve already seen a number of Division I swimming & diving programs cut in recent years, including Eastern Michigan (men), Oregon State (women), Buffalo (men), North Dakota (men & women) and Wright State (men & women).

The moratorium on schools joining Division I could also affect Division III swimming power St. Thomas, which was kicked out of its conference after a decade of dominance and a string of blowout scores in football. One option for St. Thomas was a move straight to Division Ithe school had actually requested an NCAA waiver for that move after getting an invite to the Division I Summit League. The NCAA is set to weigh in on St. Thomas’s request in a council meeting next week.

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“The commissioners said the request was not made with the intention of cutting sports, but giving athletic departments flexibility in decision-making.“ Meaning we will spend 10 seconds thinking of other ways, but we are cutting sports.


I don’t have all the numbers, but doesn’t it seem most schools will make money off of having a kid in their school for 4 years of tuition and 2+ of room & board vs. what they spend/costs they have on behalf of the athlete…might save them money for a week but cutting 60-ish kids who pay tuition to play that sport their in swimming alone seems like after a week of saving money the school will be worse than if they kept it…kids will go to a school that has their sport, or many other options in current age like online classes for way cheaper


Agree. But doesn’t seem to matter. Eastern Michigan was point blank shown they would lose $65k on cutting men’s swim by their own finance professor but didn’t care. Motivation seems to be to support football at all cost


If their goal is to support football or whatever, how does eliminating something that will bring you 65k or whatever the number is (that you could then spend on fooseball) make any sense to them?

The math on “swimming makes money” is always a little bit of funny math. It assumes things like “you’re adding to the student body who are paying more tuition and stimulating the economy!!” and doesn’t assume that those spots in the student body will be taken by other tuition-paying students. If a school has declining enrollment there’s some validity to that, presuming all of those swimmers are of a high academic caliber. It’s more probable that the athletics department just had a different version of the numbers. Additionally, the AD has to sell that to the student body as “no see you’re not subsidizing these programs, you’re paying money to make money!!” since I’m pretty sure EMU students had to… Read more »


The Athletic Department should also look long term in the reaction it’ll get from cutting a sport that is typically one of the highest in GPA and graduation rates. Take 30 guys making a 3.2 average and graduating in 4 to 5 years and your graduation rate is going down and department GPA is going down.

They need sports like swimming to counteract the academic negligence that the majority of the football team does and parts of the baseball and basketball teams do.

While swimming does certainly have a better GPA, on average, than the men’s football team, men’s swimming teams rarely lead their athletics departments. Your argument, unfortunately, sets up a situation where an AD would say “if our swim team’s GPA is below average, we should cut it.” In the case of Eastern Michigan, the men’s swimming & diving team GPA was below the department average. In the fall of 2016, for example, EMU’s men’s swimming & diving program had a 3.22 GPA, which was below the department’s average of 3.266. And that’s not cherry-picked data, it was pretty consistently below average. In the spring of 2019, the EMU football team broke a team GPA of 3.0 for the first time.… Read more »


With all the other garbage that schools waste money on (tenured faculty making way more money than they work for on the “academic” lifestyle)… I’m bummed to see that sports are ultimately going to be the first things affected by a $$$ scare.


Yes, let’s get rid of the faculty so that we can have sports! And that “academic” lifestyle, sure, it’s all vaca’s and fun. And anyone can do it too, that’s why there are 100’s of applicants for every tenure-track opening at any respectable school.

B1G Meet

Opens the door for schools to cut a sport that carries 60 to 80+ athletes (M&W), takes expensive training trips across the country that coaches deem “essential”, operates one of the most expensive facilities on campus, and brings in $0 to the athletic dept. Things are about to get serious.


I’m willing to bet that at most of the schools in these conferences, swimmers and divers fundraise or pay their own ways for training trips. I swam at a Power 5 school and we did both to cover a large portion of the costs for the trip. I’m not saying that ADs won’t see swim budgets as prime ones to cut, but I don’t think training trips contribute to that significantly.

B1G Meet

I was at a Power 5 school where we didn’t pay a dime for training trip. Every school probably has their own policies.


Yes, the reason I mentioned the Power 5 school is because if I had to pay even at a Power 5 school, the likelihood is high that at these smaller conference schools, the students pay or fundraise.

B1G Meet

Right on!


The problem is the optics of the training trip as well as the expense… I was Power 5 and had to come up with 50% of my travel expenses. The school covered everything else including remainder of flights, staff travel, hotels, rental cars, food, facility rental, etc… Two weeks of a swim team posting pictures on beaches does not help when an AD has to decide what program to cut. This is even more true when there is a pool sucking millions of dollars from his/her budget every year.

I’d be interested to know more about where the training trip culture came from in swimming, and why it’s so much more prevalent in swimming than any other sport.

If anyone has any suggestions for who we can talk to about that, throw them out.


…and is that not something we can let go of or do differently, if that’s what the survival of the sport (at the collegiate level) requires?

I sure hope so.

I really hope so.


I have to assume it’s a winter sports thing, right? Given the calendar of those sports. How many times do we see basketball teams playing games in the Bahamas, or something like that?

B1G Meet

But that’s also for a tournament typically. Swim teams go to Hawaii and such just to train and have a fake meet.

While I agree that it’s not uncommon to see basketball teams abroad, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as ubiquitous as it is for swimming, at all 3 levels of the NCAA to boot.

It’s a few pre-season tournaments – and to boot, they’re revenue-generating tournaments – with a few days of sight-seeing tagged on.

Math Magician

Training trips are prevalent for baseball teams, especially northern programs. Our town is flooded with teams practicing and playing games from late February through early April. They can be found all throughout Florida at this time.

West Coast Swammer

If a team wants to train during the winter break (or in the case of schools on the quarter system, during the first weeks of September before school starts), they need to pay for housing for the students in the dorms. That can get VERY expensive. Sometimes its nearly the same cost as taking a training trip, especially if the athletes pay for part of it – depending on how many athletes are in student housing.

My guess is that this training trip business started when universities started having USA Swimming clubs, keeping their swimmers over the summer and winter breaks, rather than having them go home and train with their club teams.


Training trips started way before USA Swimming ever existed….the College Forum in Fort Lauderdale started pre 1950.


I competed (d1) in a sport similar to swimming. We came back to school right after Christmas but there was no travel to a tropical spot. Just a “training camp” at school. The only fun part was goofing off around a (mostly) empty campus and of course the camaraderie of surviving the sufferfest with our teammates.


It’s easier to tolerate huge volumes of training in sunny weather. Every club team I’ve been goes incredibly hard over winter break, and the university I swam at went hard over winter break, mentally it’s easier to do that if you’re next to a beach than at some college where no ones there and it’s likely freezing

B1G Meet

Totally agree it’s easier to train next to a beach, but I don’t think an AD will really care about the non-revenue generating athletes not getting to train next to a beach when he/she needs to slash M &W Swim/Dive budgets 60-150k or cut the programs entirely to save money to keep revenue generating sports and facilities alive.

DIIIer (Polar Bear elsewhere)

Its not necessarily – I sailed and practically every team in the country does a spring break trip. At the DIII school I attended in New England every winter and spring team takes a trip – track goes to Disney World to train at their massive athletics facility, baseball goes to FL, tennis (M&W) goes to CA. Hockey goes to MN (MN in January – good times), W Basketball (played in national championship game last 2 years) goes to CA. I don’t believe those trips all occurred in the late 90’s when I attended, so swimming certainly predates, but they are common now. And we paid for the whole thing ourselves.


I had discussions with an Ohio University Swimmer from the 1930’s that used to go to Fort Lauderdale for training and the forum. I think it started a few years before the date mentioned in the first paragraph of the link. That’s the earliest I have been able to trace the origins of a training trip in Swimming & Diving.


Very interesting discussion. I would posit that training trips (TT) are rooted in the old school mentality of training and phrases such as, ‘more=better’ and ‘work works.’ In addition, I imagine the need for a TT was exacerbated by swimmers going home for an extended winter break and losing their fitness going into championship season. As a result, coaches and departments may have opted to institute TTs to address both issues, attempting to squeeze as much hard training into a short window (overtraining in the process, but that’s a topic for a different day). Finally, in the 30’s most schools didn’t have winter sessions, so even if you are able to access campus (dorms, dining halls, athletic facilities, etc.), why… Read more »


Most of the aquatic facilities used generate money from rental fees by USA teams, swim lessons, and open rec use. Also, very few swimmers are on a “full ride” scholarship. Their money is divided amongst the whole team. Many of these programs also have out of state students paying twice the tuition just for the chance to continue swimming. The cutting of the smaller programs will just be a band aid fix. How many are on a football roster ? They all don’t ever see the playing field but are supplied with all the extras such as gear, food, tutors, and travel expenses. The numerous coaching staff salaries compared to usually two swim coaches and grad students is crazy. UC… Read more »

Women’s Volleyball is probably fairly safe – many volleyball programs turn profits, and those that don’t come closer to breaking even than the average non-football/basketball program. Given that Title IX provisions haven’t been suspended, women’s programs that come closer to breaking even while simultaneously helping schools maintain Title IX requirements are in a very good position.


Honestly starting to feel like this is a death knell to the NCAA in general. Universities are going to have to fight tooth and nail just to reopen for education (their original purpose) let alone for athletic events. Been interesting to see multiple high school basketball players decommit this last week and make moves to go pro. I wonder if they have folks in their camp that see the writing on the wall….


I agree with your general concern but don’t see elite basketball recruits as the best barometer since many of them were only planning on being in college for a year or two before going pro.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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