The COVID-19 pandemic claimed its second major Division I college program when the University of Cincinnati dropped men’s soccer on Tuesday.
Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham’s reasons for the cut are similar to what led Old Dominion to cut wrestling earlier this month — financial difficulties made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This was a difficult decision, but one made with the long-term interests of UC Athletics at the forefront,” Cunningham said. “During this time of profound challenges and widespread uncertainty, I have engaged in a comprehensive and thorough review of UC’s sport offerings and long-term budget implications of supporting the number of student-athletes currently at UC.
“Our men’s soccer student-athletes have been outstanding representatives of the University in the classroom and on the field. They may not fully understand the decision, but I want them to know they were truly and conscientiously considered during my deliberations about the future of UC Athletics.”
Cunningham told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the university won’t discontinue any more sports, and that it will honor the soccer players’ scholarships through the rest of their academic careers if they choose not to transfer. The Enquirer reported that the men’s soccer program, which went 385-408-84 since forming in 1973, had $907,745 in total operating expenses and $181,247 in total operating revenues during the 2019 fiscal year.
Related content: Old Dominion Cuts Wrestling Program to Save Money
According to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, individuals within the college sports industry believe that the cuts have only just begun and that the coronavirus may give schools an opportunity to shed expenditures.
“I think now that Cincinnati just did it, watch the next month,” an FBS athletic director told Thamel. “They cleared the way for other people to do it. Cincinnati puts it on a different level. Unfortunately, you’re going to start to see it. When you have to right-size everything, that’s going to become a way out for a lot of these programs.”
To lighten those financial struggles, several Division I conference commissioners are asking that NCAA bylaws be altered for up to four years.
According to Yahoo, the request was made via a letter from the commissioners of the AAC, Mountain West, MAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA to NCAA president Mark Emmert. Thamel reported that the letter asks for “temporary relief from several regulatory requirements for a period of up to four years.” The goal is to create “opportunity for institutions to retrench and rebuild the financial structures of the institution.”
“This collaborative request from the Group of Five is intended as the sort of creative alternative these unprecedented times demand,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said, according to CBS Sports. “The waivers of NCAA legislation would create a permissive environment, allowing each institution and conference across the Division I landscape the necessary flexibility to determine how best to proceed in making financial adjustments which are intended to preserve sports and opportunities for student-athletes.”
The letter made several requests, the most glaring of which is that the NCAA give schools relief from the minimum number of sponsored sports. Currently, every FBS school is required to have at least 16 varsity sports. Removing that requirement would allow more schools to cut programs and save money.