University of Nebraska at Omaha officials announced Saturday a plan for athletics to join the NCAA's Division I while eliminating the Mavericks' football and wrestling programs.
The plan, which awaits approval from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, would involve UNO accepting a bid to join the Summit League. It was met Sunday with campus rallies supporting the stunned football and wrestling student-athletes. According to the Omaha World-Herald, the decision was spurred by the ever-growing gap between athletic revenues and expenses, requiring ever-greater infusions of tax, tuition and student-fee dollars into the department.
On its current path, the athletic department would have been out of business within five years, according to UNO chancellor John Christensen, a former collegiate wrestler who called it by far the most difficult decision he's ever had to make. "But I believe unless we make substantive change, the future of the athletic department is in significant jeopardy," he said at a press conference Sunday.
Specifically, football will be dropped because the university can't afford the 27 additional scholarships necessary to bring the program up to speed in Division I. The wrestling program, which won its third consecutive Division II national championships Saturday, will be eliminated to better align UNO with the offerings of other schools currently competing in the Summit League, which extended its membership invitation Friday. Moreover, UNO will add men's soccer and golf teams. Ultimately, the hope is to make men's basketball a revenue sport along with men's ice hockey, which has been competing at the Division I level since 1997.
UNO officials have pledged to honor the scholarships of all 150 student-athletes affected by the cuts, should they choose to remain at the school.