NCAA Division I school University of Evansville will reduce scholarship counts across 10 athletics programs, including swimming & diving, as part of its efforts to stay financially solvent amid the pandemic.
In an interview with the Courier & Press, UE athletics director Mark Spencer said that everything was on the table when the school began drafting an “institutional alignment plan,” which included reductions to athletics.
The school looked at options including joining other conferences, leaving NCAA Division I all together, and cutting sports.
Ultimately, the school landed on athletic scholarship reductions as part of an overall effort projected to save $1.1 million over “the next few years,” along with an additional $300,000 in annual savings through an updated room and board policy for athletic scholarship recipients.
The school plans to keep all 17 of its athletics programs and maintain same-sized rosters across its athletics programs.
“Our roster size isn’t huge in the sports we had identified for this, but also wanted to make sure we left enough scholarships in those sports to remain competitive in the conference,” Spencer said. “If you look at swimming: If you look at our history, we finish within one spot in the conference every year as a team.
“We don’t expect that to really change a whole lot with these scholarship reductions. Can we have individual success? Absolutely. Our kids always fight for championships, but you may not have as many full-scholarship swimmers, golfers, and track and field folks as we’ve had in the past.”
Swimming awards “equivalency” scholarships, where the allotted scholarships can be given in partial form across multiple athletes. That’s as compared to sports like football, basketball, and volleyball, “head count sports,” which give only full scholarships.
The school declined to share how many scholarships the swimming & diving programs had before the cuts, and how many were cut, but in response to an inquiry from SwimSwam did say “UE Athletics cut a total of roughly 20 scholarships across the 10 sports that were impacted.”
Spencer says that no current scholarships will be impacted by the decision.
The spokesperson emphasized that “even after the reductions, each of these sports will continue to have multiple athletic scholarships available.”
The reductions will impact golf, swimming, and track & field programs. No ‘head count” sports will be impacted.
The school, in a press release, says that at present, the school has 239 student-athletes and 189 of those receive partial scholarships. The school believes that the loss of the tuition from those student-athletes if the school moved to Division II or Division III would offset any cost savings.
Evansville’s women’s program is currently preparing for the 2021 Missouri Valley Swimming & Diving Championships, which will take place from April 15-17 at Southern Illinois University. Last season, they finished 6th out of 8 teams, which was the program’s best finish since 2017.
The men’s team will race from April 8-10 at the Mid-American Conference Championship meet at Miami University in Ohio. The men’s team finished 5th out of 5 teams at that meet.
The 2019-2020 season was the first season for the programs under head coach Stuart Wilson.
The school says that they have received a boost of income after the Loyola and Drake men and the Missouri State women making runs in the NCAA basketball tournaments. Loyola, a #8 seed, upset #1 seed Illinois to advance to the Sweet 16, while Drake lost to USC in the first round. The Missouri State women advanced to the Sweet 16 as well, where they lost to eventual national champions Stanford.
While all schools benefit from the revenue generated from the NCAA basketball tournaments, conferences and schools are allocated extra money based on how deep their teams advance. Conference often distribute their allocations to all members, even those that don’t participate in the tournament.
The University of Evansville cut its football program in the spring of 1998.
According to an annual report submitted to the NCAA, Evansville athletics was subsidized at a rate of $12 million for the 2019-2020 academic year. The school couches that figure by claiming that half of that money, $6 million, is not an “expense” but rather “lost revenue” via scholarships, and that tuition dollars further offset the “expense.”
Other changes for the university as a whole include:
- Elimination of majors in philosophy, religion, and art history for new incoming students
- a “voluntary separation plan” for 19 faculty members
- pausing admissions to electrical engineering, computer engineering, and software engineering for 1 year to evaluate how to better structure those programs
- That’s 12 fewer major cuts than were originally suggested, leaving the school with a proposed a total offering of “more than 75 majors.”
- Furlough of 120+ staff in May of 2020 plus pay reductions beginning in the fall semester, including 20% for the university president.
The University of Evansville had 2,312 students as part of its total enrollment in fall 2020, making it one of the smallest schools in NCAA Division I athletics. Tuition and fees amounted to approximately $18,750 per semester for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Evansville has participated in NCAA Division I athletics since 1977.