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Winthrop Discontinues Tennis Due to Financial Struggles

Brock Fritz

College sports programs are continuing to be cut as the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the collegiate landscape enters its fourth month.

Winthrop University made its cost-saving moves Friday, announcing that it has discontinued its men’s and women’s tennis teams. The Board of Trustees at the Rock Hill, S.C., university voted Friday to make the move, saying that no other sports are currently being considered for elimination.

“With recent elevated costs of Division I athletics, combined with financial limitations resulting from COVID-19, it became clear that Winthrop had a structural issue with athletics budgeting,” Winthrop said in the FAQ section of its press release. “That is to say, our current athletics budgeting model was no longer sustainable. Additionally, the Winthrop Memorial Tennis Courts are in dire need of substantial repairs, causing both programs to train and compete at off-campus locations. All of this has directly impacted the student-athlete experience for Winthrop Tennis. Due to these issues, now was the time to make this incredibly difficult decision.”

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The university’s press release said that 22 student-athletes, two full-time staff members and two graduate assistants are affected by the cuts. Of the program veterans, those that don’t transfer will remain on scholarship through their fourth academic year. The three student-athletes who signed a National Letter of Intent to be freshmen this fall will retain their scholarships through the 2020-21 school year. The student-athletes will continue to receive sports medicine services and academic counseling.

“When I came to Winthrop I never thought for a second that this type of decision would have to be made,” Winthrop vice president for intercollegiate athletics Ken Halpin said. “Everyone at the university is heart-broken right now and our number-one focus is to take care of our student-athletes and coaches being directly impacted by this decision.”

The Rock Hill Herald reportedly obtained a 2019 NCAA financial summary report that showed that Winthrop’s tennis teams had more than $813,000 in total operating expenses without bringing in any money from ticket sales. The Herald reported that $230,889 of Winthrop tennis’ $631,550 total operating revenue in 2019 came from student fees.

Canceled winter championships, including the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, and spring seasons decreased athletic department funds and led to discontinued programs across the nation. Several programs have been saved, including donations saving the University of Alabama-Huntsville men’s hockey program and the Bowling Green State University baseball program.

Related content: Coping with Financial Fallout of Canceled Tourney

Both Winthrop tennis programs have been very successful. COVID-19 canceled the 2020 spring season early, ending the women’s team’s run of four straight Big South Conference Championship titles. Overall, the Eagles have won 21 women’s conference tournament titles since 1994 while the men have won seven since 1997. The women have won 20 regular-season Big South titles, while the men have won nine.

Winthrop now sponsors 16 NCAA sports — nine women’s and seven men’s.

According to Tennis.com, the sport of tennis has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

Related content: Experts Hope Colleges Can Save Without Cutting Sports

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