East Carolina University has cut four of its 20 intercollegiate sports, including men’s and women’s swimming & diving, as part of a plan to save $4.9 million long-term.
The school announced the move in a press release today. ECU will drop to the NCAA minimum of 16 sponsored sports at the Division I level. The ECU Pirates compete in the American Athletic Conference, which was part of the Group of Five conferences that earlier this year asked the NCAA to reduce its minimum number of sponsored sports to below 16 to help schools deal with the budget fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA rejected that request.
ECU will cut the following athletic programs:
- Men’s swimming & diving
- Women’s swimming & diving
- Men’s tennis
- Women’s tennis
That leaves the school with 9 women’s sports and 7 men’s sports. ECU says that beyond the elimination of those four sports, the athletic department will take other measures to reduce its financial deficit, estimating $4.9 million in long-term savings, with that money used toward “reducing the current deficit and reducing the institutional investment in future years.”
The school will also cut department and sport budgets, save money on travel and scheduling, eliminate several currently-vacant positions, limit summer school offerings for student-athletes and suspend professional development conferences for at least a year.
That comes after an ECU working group found that the athletic department’s financial model was “not sustainable.” That report, which you can read here, was created prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of college sports this spring.
The report already recommended limiting travel expenses for non-revenue sports, as well as eliminating sports.
ECU says 68 student-athletes will be affected by the program cuts. Last year, the team’s roster listed 24 male swimmers & divers and 25 female swimmers & divers. The school says it will honor all scholarships for athletes who wish to remain at ECU, and for incoming freshmen who signed NLIs. Athletes are also able to transfer without sitting out a season.
The East Carolina Pirates are the defending AAC champions in men’s swimming & diving, with four conference titles in six years as a member of the conference. The women finished 4th last year out of six programs. The team regularly qualifies swimmers for the NCAA Championship meet, including 1 female swimmer in 2020. Kristen Stege, in the first official mile race of her career, win the AAC title, broke the AAC Record, and qualified for the NCAA Championships. Stege previously announced that she will be transferring to Tennessee in the fall.
On the men’s side, the school was due to send butterflier Gustavo Santos to the NCAA Championships before they were cancelled. He was the 18th seed in the 100 fly. Santos was a senior.
The cuts – along with UConn’s move back to the Big East – will reduce the AAC to just two men’s swimming & diving programs: Cincinnati and SMU. The conference still has four women’s programs: Houston, SMU, Cincinnati and Tulane. With Cincinnati already cutting its men’s soccer program, the commissioner of the AAC has already hinted that the conference could cancel or reduce its offerings of conference championship events in Olympic sports.