As athletic departments navigate the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several experts are warning universities against cutting sports.
The shutdown of NCAA winter championships and spring seasons has already led to the University of Cincinnati dropping men’s soccer and Old Dominion cutting wrestling. More schools are expected to follow suit, but Nicholas Piotrowicz of the The Blade, a newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, spoke with three sports management professionals who believe cutting programs won’t solve financial challenges.
“The first thing you say to a school facing financing exigency is: Do not cut sports,” said Donna Lopiano, the founder of consulting firm Sports Management Resources and the former University of Texas director of women’s athletics. “Every alumni that ever played that sport at your institution in the last 100 years will be on your case, and the loss of future donated revenues and goodwill is not something you want to deal with.”
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However, financial issues are present — and growing. The coronavirus-related shutdown caused the 2020 NCAA Division I revenue distribution to drop from an expected $600 million to $225 million. Several conference commissioners have asked the NCAA to remove some of its regulations to make cutting sports easier, such as easing off the regulation that Division I programs have at least 16 varsity sports.
“We need to take some really strong austerity measures — but the stupid thing to do is to drop sports,” Ohio University associate professor of sports management B. David Ridpath said, noting that some schools spend way too much on football and basketball when they are likely to never be nationally competitive. “I just think what we’re seeing from conference commissioners now in looking for relief is short-sighted. They’re only trying to save two sports. They don’t care about any of the other ones.”
Other options to save money are reducing travel, decreasing the number of staff members, reducing salaries or eliminating bonuses for the top-level employees
“That’s a logical place if you can convince your highest-paid employees to take a pay cut, but most people don’t like to take pay cuts,” Drexel University professor and director of sports management Joel Maxcy said. “To me, it’s most likely going to be taken out of the most vulnerable personnel and most vulnerable sports.”
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