Swimming Spared, But COVID, Title IX Lead Minnesota to Cut 4 Men’s Sports

The University of Minnesota has announced a number of cost-cutting measures including discontinuing its men’s track & field, men’s gymnastics, and men’s tennis programs at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season.

The swimming & diving programs have not been eliminated.

The school says that the decision will result in about $2 million in fiscal year 22, with about a $2.7 million annual savings once all student-athletes who choose to stay have graduated.

The school is projecting a loss of $75 million in revenue this fiscal year as compared to budget. That loss in revenue doesn’t account for any cost savings on, for example, game day operations for fall sports, which Minnesota, like most of the Big Ten, is not holding this year.

In explaining the decision to cut only men’s programs, the school says that an increase in female undergraduate enrollment has pushed the university to adjust participation opportunities to remain in line with athletics opportunities versus student body enrollment, one of the three tests to determine Title IX compliance in athletics.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall 2020-21 sports has greatly increased the financial concerns, Our athletic department is now facing a projected loss of revenue of approximately $75 million just this fiscal year. This is a significant deficit and one that will have an impact for years to come. At the same time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide Title IX gender-equitable participation opportunities that are closely aligned with our male and female undergraduate enrollment percentages. We are mindful that our sport programs have worked to adjust their participation opportunities to keep pace with our growing female undergraduate population percentages.

In the 2018-2019 year, the school provided 429 opportunities for male student-athletes and 428 opportunities for female-student athletes according to government Equity in Athletics Data Analysis numbers. These numbers exclude male athletes who participate on the women’s basketball practice squad.

When reduced to un-duplicated counts, which excludes, for example, student-athletes who participate in both indoor and outdoor track & field, or football and baseball, those numbers are 359 male student-athletes and 321 female student-athletes. That means that about 47.2% of Minnesota’s varsity athletes were women that year.

In the same year, about 53.5% of the student body were women. That gap between those two percentages equates to about 42 spots in intercollegiate athletics.

These cuts will impact 58 student-athletes, Minnesota says.

The school says that it can no longer sustain 25 sports financially, in addition to needing to come in compliance with Title IX.

As has been the case with virtually all sport eliminations this off-season, Minnesota says that “we do not believe there is a realistic fundraising goal we could set that would address all the challenges that led to this decision.”

Personnel Cost-Reduction Plan

The school has also made a number of personnel decisions that it says will save $1.3 million this year. In addition to a previously-implemented furlough and pay-reduction plan, the department will eliminate 8 positions on top of those positions being eliminated because of program discontinuation.

The school’s highest-paid employees, including Director of Athletics Mark Coyle and head coaches P.J. Fleck, Hugh McCutcheon, Bob Motzko, Richard Pitino and Lindsay Whalen, voluntarily took a %10 pay cut, which results in an additional savings of around $1.2 million.

Most academic professional and administrative employees will be subject to a 10 percent reduction in appointment, while civil service and labor represented employees will be furloughed for 17 days. These impacts will continue for the remainder of the fiscal year. Employees who make $40,000 or less will not be impacted.

Like most schools in the Big Ten and Pac-12, barring a reprieve (which has been discussed) or a spring season, the loss of ticket, concessions, and television revenues from fall sports is the biggest hit to revenues.

In addition to football, for the Big Ten, this includes a substantial loss in revenue from volleyball programs. The conference is home to 4 of the 5 highest-attended volleyball teams in the NCAA, led by Nebraska, a profit-generating program, that averages over 8,100 fans per game.

Minnesota last season average 5,471 fans per home game, which equated to 82,065 total tickets.

University of Minnesota estimates that in 2018-2019, the athletics department received about $10.6 million from the general university administration, but returned about $21.5 million. That number includes scholarship paid for by the athletics department, plus $5.7 million in cost-sharing for technology, utilities, and other services.

Based on USA Today data, in 2018-2019 Minnesota Athletics ranked 24th in the country in revenue with just over $130 million brought in. The athletics department turned about a $1 million profit that year, but that included almost $8 million allocated by the university, based on NCAA accounting principles.

The Full Announcement from the University of Minnesota is Below:

We are writing to you today with difficult news.

For years, Gopher Athletics has operated like most Minnesotans – by humbly doing more with less. Minnesota has diligently sponsored 25 varsity sports, which is the fourth-most in the Big Ten Conference, on a budget that is only the eighth largest. Despite this imbalance, we have taken great pride in offering and excelling in a broad-based athletic department, one that has claimed 76 regular-season conference titles in 20 different sports since 2000.

For the past few years, we had forecasted future sustainability issues, both financial and Title IX related, and although we have directed our efforts to address these challenges while maintaining our current sport offerings, we knew we would be faced with a difficult sports sponsorship decision at some point.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall 2020-21 sports has greatly increased the financial concerns. Our athletic department is now facing a projected loss of revenue of approximately $75 million just this fiscal year. This is a significant deficit and one that will have an impact for years to come. At the same time, we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide Title IX gender-equitable participation opportunities that are closely aligned with our male and female undergraduate enrollment percentages. We are mindful that our sport programs have worked to adjust their participation opportunities to keep pace with our growing female undergraduate population percentages.

As a result, we have determined that Athletics is no longer able to financially or equitably sustain 25 varsity programs, and pending approval of the Board of Regents, we will discontinue men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis at the completion of their 2020-21 competition season. Should health and safety precautions allow, these teams will have the opportunity to compete during the 2020-21 season.

Our goal for the last few years was to create a nimble athletic department, one that was self-sufficient, competed at the highest level and provided a first-class experience for our student-athletes. We experienced record-level fundraising during the last several years and reduced our operating budgets during both FY19 and FY20. When COVID-19 struck, we adjusted and members of our executive team and several head coaches volunteered for two separate pay reductions. We previously reduced $5 million from our FY21 budget and implemented hiring and spending freezes. Despite these financial efforts, we can still no longer sustain 25 programs.

In addition to the financial challenges and gender-equity commitments, we also considered community impact, local and national interest, competitiveness, and sport sponsorship at the Big Ten and NCAA Division I level when making this decision.
We understand that this is devastating news for impacted student-athletes, coaches and staff. We also recognize the ripple effect this decision will have on all of our student-athletes and on former letterwinners, alumni, donors, family, friends and fans who have participated on and cheered for these four programs over the years. We did not make this decision lightly.

Members of the impacted teams will continue to have access to athletic, academic and mental health support throughout their 2020-21 competition season. We will also continue to honor all existing scholarships for individuals who choose to complete their undergraduate degree at Minnesota, while still offering them access to academic advising, sports psychology and necessary access to athletic medicine. We will also assist any student-athlete who decides to transfer and will support them through the transition process.

We have been honest with our student-athletes, staff and campus leadership about the severe financial ramifications our department is facing. We are also aware that this decision directly impacts lives and the livelihoods of many, while forever changing the landscape of Gopher Athletics.

Personnel Cost-Reduction Plan

In addition to adjusting our sport offerings, we are also announcing a personnel cost-reduction plan for Athletics. This is in addition to the University’s previously implemented furlough and pay-reduction plan, which members of the athletic department already participated in. Most academic professional and administrative employees will be subject to a 10 percent reduction in appointment, while civil service and labor represented employees will be furloughed for 17 days. These impacts will continue for the remainder of the fiscal year. Employees who make $40,000 or less will not be impacted.

The athletic department is also eliminating eight positions in addition to those that will be eliminated because of program discontinuation. The department anticipates a savings of $1.3 million this fiscal year related to its personnel cost-reduction plan.

It was previously announced that Director of Athletics Mark Coyle and head coaches P.J. FleckHugh McCutcheonBob MotzkoRichard Pitino and Lindsay Whalen volunteered for a 10 percent salary reduction. That reduction will now be extended through the entire fiscal year and will result in a savings of an additional $1.2 million.

In short, we have tried to find a way to avoid these difficult decisions. Unfortunately, we could not overcome the challenges presented by these unprecedented times.

We fully understand that these decisions will have a significant impact on our student-athletes and employees, especially those who are directly affected. We will continue to explore ways to mitigate our deficit and will continue to support our remaining student-athletes and staff.

Sincerely,

Joan T.A. Gabel, President

Mark Coyle, Director of Athletics

Minnesota Athletics Program Discontinuation Frequently Asked Questions

What decisions were announced today?

Today, we announced the difficult decision to discontinue our men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis programs at the conclusion of their 2020-21 competition season. The four impacted teams will have the opportunity to compete during their 2020-21 competition season provided health and safety circumstances allow. We also announced a personnel cost-reduction plan that starts in October and continues through the fiscal year. These actions are pending Board of Regents approval.

What was the process that led to the decision to discontinue these programs?

We continuously review our program from a financial standpoint as well as a gender-equity standpoint. Our ongoing fiscal challenges have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the fall 2020-21 season. Our athletic department is now facing a projected loss of revenue of approximately $75 million just this fiscal year. This is a significant loss and one that will impact our athletic department for years.

In order to address the initial financial impact of the pandemic, Athletic Director Mark Coyle and the department’s five-highest earning coaches volunteered to take two sets of pay reductions. In addition, other head coaches and senior administration members have taken pay reductions as well. Athletics also implemented a hiring and spending freeze and eligible staff members participated in the University’s furlough and pay-reduction plan. Athletics is projected to save an additional $1.3 million through its proposed personnel cost-reduction plan. These cost-containment measures are in addition to Athletics-implemented budget reductions implemented since FY19, with approximately $5 million dollars of cost saving adjustments in FY21 alone.

Why were these four sports chosen for discontinuation?

Once we determined that we simply are no longer able to sustain 25 sports financially, we reviewed our overall sport offering with an eye toward a sports sponsorship model that would provide sustainable, competitive and equitable participation opportunities for our remaining programs. Due to recent shifts in our female and male undergraduate demographics, we also needed to take steps to ensure compliance with our commitment to provide gender-equitable participation opportunities for our students consistent with federal law requirements. We also considered community impact, local and national interest, competitiveness, and sport sponsorship at the Big Ten and NCAA Division I level.

Why is this being announced now?

We are announcing now due to the impact of COVID 19. While there is never a good time to announce sport eliminations, we wanted to announce the decision as soon as it was made and with time to allow our student-athletes to fully explore their academic and athletic options.

Is there any sort of fundraising effort to save these sports?

We have tremendous donors who are extremely generous and, as a department, we have experienced record-level fundraising during the past several years. However, as this decision is a combination of financial sustainability and Title IX commitment, we do not believe there is a realistic fundraising goal we could set that would address all the challenges that led to this decision.

What does this decision say about the stability of Minnesota athletics?

For years, Minnesota has been one of the most resourceful athletic departments in the country. Twenty different Gopher teams have won a combined 76 conference titles since 2000. We are also continually ranked as one of the highest academically achieving public schools in the nation with regard to Academic Progress Report (APR) and Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and have led the Big Ten for the last five years in the number of Academic All-Americans. We do things the right way and are making decisions that we believe are necessary for our department as we move forward.

Will you honor existing athletics scholarships for those student-athletes affected?

Yes, we will honor all existing scholarships for individuals who choose to complete their undergraduate degree at Minnesota.

What is the impact of these changes on gender equity and Title IX?

The decision to eliminate four men’s sports, combined with roster adjustments in women’s programs, will result in female and male participation numbers that closely align with our undergraduate campus enrollment percentages, which is approximately 54% female and 46% male. By having our program offerings mirror our changing student population, the University will be ensuring that we are providing full, effective, and equitable participation opportunities for our female and male student-athletes.

How many student-athletes are affected by the decision to discontinue four programs?

This decision impacts 58 student-athletes.

How does the discontinuation of four sports impact diversity within the athletic department?

Our University and athletic department are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. The elimination of these four programs does not change that commitment. The athletic department’s goal of diversity and inclusion is to foster an environment in which all members of the Athletics community are treated equitably, contribute fully to the athletic departments mission, and embrace and model the department’s values.

How will the affected student-athletes be supported?

We will continue to provide the student-athletes of these four programs with athletic, academic and mental health support throughout their 2020-21 competition season. We will also honor all existing athletics scholarships for those affected student-athletes who choose to complete their undergraduate degree at Minnesota, while still providing them with access to academic advising, sports psychology and athletics-related sports medicine services. Should a student-athlete decide to transfer, we will support them through the transition process and will grant them their full release from the University.

What will happen if competition resumes (with appropriate health and safety conditions) and if one of the teams is unable to field a roster for the upcoming season as a result of today’s decision?

The 2020-21 competition season will be the final opportunity for these four programs to compete at the varsity level. We will continue to honor student-athlete scholarships and will work with coaches if a program is unable to compete during 2020-21.

How much money will be saved as a result of the program discontinuation?

We anticipate a savings of $2 million in FY22 and an annual savings of $2.7 million once all student-athletes currently on athletics-based aid have graduated.

How would potential savings be used in the future?

Financial savings will help the department balance its budget.

How much money will be saved in FY21 as a result of the personnel cost-reduction plan?

We anticipate a savings of $1.3 million this fiscal year.

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SwimFan49
8 days ago

Although I guess happy to see swimming was spared, still a very tough day for the coaches and athletes directly affected. I think with both Iowa and Minnesota eliminating men’s gymnastics, it reduces the total number of NCAA D1 programs to 13, if I’m not mistaken.

Lululemon Provides Luxury Karenware
8 days ago

Another sad day for college sports.

Food4Thought
8 days ago

I am all for Title IX. But DoEd’s standards for compliance (aka, the three-prong test) are a problem. For example, with respect to the first – Participation (aka Interest and Abilities), anything beyond a 1% difference in participation (or Interest and Abilities) – which relies on DUPLICATED counts (for example, counting a two-sport athlete as two athletes for participation) is a VERY tough standard to meet.

Jred
Reply to  Food4Thought
8 days ago

The problem is football. They shouldn’t count football athletes or scholarships for title IX purposes.

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. 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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