Colleges Cut Back Sports Programs

By Staff

March 18, 2009

The economic downturn has resulted in many colleges and universities cutting back on athletics programs or eliminating them entirely.

U.S. News & World Report notes that the University of Vermont and the University of Northern Iowa will be dropping their baseball programs next season. The Burlington Free Press reports that UVM's decision, which would also eliminate softball, was caused by a 6.5 percent cut in the school's fund allocation for sports, a decrease in scholarship endowment revenues, an increase in athletic scholarship costs and other increased operating costs.

"This was an exceptionally difficult decision to make knowing the history and tradition of these programs and the impact that it will have on the staff and student athletes involved," said Robert Corran, UVM director of athletics.

At Northern Iowa, the move to eliminate baseball is expected to help reduce the athletic department's $600,000 deficit, caused by a 9 percent cut in state funding. USA Today reports that the school's athletic director, Troy Dannen, agreed to give supporters a chance to raise $1.2 million by mid-April to fund at least three years.

But he indicated that finding the funding would be no small feat. "We are not talking about raising money for a year so we have to go through this again," he said. "We are talking about finding a way to finance the program perpetually and that would be an endowment."

Other schools are eliminating sports programs as well. At Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, golf, women's volleyball and men's outdoor track have been dropped.

"It was an extremely difficult decision," said Jack McDonald, the school's director of athletics and recreation, in an interview with The Quinnipiac Chronicle. "A variety of scenarios were explored to continue to provide gender-equitable and competitive opportunities for the greatest number of male and female student athletes in these fiscally challenging times."

Pepperdine University in California announced that it would eliminate its men's varsity track program this year, and its women's swimming and diving team next year. The Associated Press reports that as with other schools, the cuts are the result of the economic downturn and a need to reduce the university's budget.

Similarly, officials at Western Washington University announced early this year that they would be dropping their football program, which began in 1903. According to Bleacher Report, the move is expected to save the university about $450,000 annually.

Other schools have vowed to continue athletics but warned of major budget cuts that could impact programs. At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, school officials quieted rumors that all sports funding would be cut, but noted that teams should be prepared to make some sacrifices.

"The university as a whole is experiencing a budget shortfall and all of us needed to tighten our belts," noted Athletic Director Jim Harris in an interview with UAH's student newspaper, The Exponent. "Athletics is no exception. We will continue to provide an outstanding athletics program here at UAH, I assure you."

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