After weeks of speculation, the University of Connecticut is officially cutting its men’s swimming and diving program along with men’s tennis and cross country, as well as women’s rowing, after the 2020-21 school year, the Hartford Courant’s Alexa Phillippou reported Wednesday during a Board of Trustees meeting. The school will also reduce the number of scholarships offered for men’s golf and track & field.
According to Phillippou, the school will honor scholarships for athletes who choose to remain at UConn and pursue a four-year degree.
Program eliminations are effective following 2020-21 school year.
UConn will honor all scholarships of affected student-athletes who choose to continue their education at UConn and complete their degree in four years.
— Alexa Philippou (@alexaphilippou) June 24, 2020
UConn track and field representatives called into the meeting and one urged the board to consider the non-financial ramifications of theit program. “You could be saving someone’s life if this program is not cut,” one alum reportedly said.
The school’s athletic department reportedly must slash $10 million from its budget over the next three years due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the university will be lowering its contribution to athletics from $40 million $30 million. According to a report by the Hartford Courant, in recent years, athletics has been taking in about $40 million and spending more than $80 million annually.
On May 23, athletic director David Benedict said that eliminating sports would be 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 men finished fourth out of four teams at the 2020 AAC Swimming & Diving Conference Championships, while the UConn women’s team finished sixth out of six teams. The defending men’s conference champions from ECU having now been cut, which coupled with UConn’s departure, leaves just Cincinnati and SMU sponsoring men’s swimming programs in the American.
According to data collected by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, 43 Division I sports programs have now been cut amid the COVID-19 pandemic.