How the University of Connecticut plans to cut down its athletics budget will be revealed at a June 24 Board of Trustees meeting, the Hartford Currant reported last week. Athletic director David Benedict will present his proposal for the cuts, or maybe multiple proposals, at the meeting.
The athletic department reportedly has to cut approximately $10 million from its budget over the next three years, as the university will be lowering its contribution to athletics from $40 million $30 million – it’s been reported that multiple sports programs could be under the ax, and swimming is often one of the first to go in these situations.
According to the Courant’s report, in recent years, athletics has been taking in about $40 million and spending more than $80 million annually.
On May 23, Benedict said that eliminating sports is a major consideration, as UConn fields 24 varsity sports, which is eight more than the minimum for Division I status. UConn will join the Big East Conference on July 1 (and had to pay $17 million to exit the AAC), and its current sport count is six more than the average per school across the conference.
UConn’s situation is similar to that of East Carolina University, which announced the cut of four programs – including swimming & diving – last month as part of an effort to close a $10 million-per-year budget deficit. ECU previously sponsored 20 sports, which made it the second-biggest program in the AAC behind UConn’s 24.
The UConn women’s swimming & diving team finished sixth out of six teams at the 2020 AAC Conference Championship meet, while the UConn men finished fourth out of four teams. The defending men’s conference champions from ECU having now been cut, coupled with UConn’s departure, leaves just Cincinnati and SMU sponsoring men’s swimming programs in the American.
A group of former track and field athletes called into the meeting of the UConn board’s financial affairs committee last Friday to advocate for their program, but the committee chose to delay the topic of athletics. The track program has raised more than $1.5 million, according to the Courant, and the school’s golf and tennis programs have “received financial support from alums in the form of long-term pledges” (golf has reportedly raised $500,000).
A representative from the UConn swim team told SwimSwam that the program also has $500,000 in pledges from an undisclosed number of alumni — there is also a GoFundMe set up called “Protect the Program – UConn Swimming & Diving” with just over $1,000 donated.
This is part of a concerted social media effort by members of many of the school’s “Olympic” sports to petition to save their programs. This has included a number of posts trying to push the value of each academic program to the university.
According to Jason Bryant of Mat Talk, 40 NCAA Division I athletics programs have been cut so far this year, with 6 of those having already been reinstated: Alabama-Huntsville men’s ice hockey, Bowling Green State baseball, and Brown indoor track & field, outdoor track & field, and cross country.