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UConn Cutting Four Sports in Cost-Savings Effort

Brock Fritz

The University of Connecticut is making sweeping changes to its athletic department due to budget issues.

The Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to cut UConn’s men’s tennis, men’s swimming and diving, men’s cross country and women’s rowing programs after their 2020-21 seasons. The university will also reduce operating expenses in the remaining sports by 15 percent. UConn’s press release said the athletic department changes are a reaction to a “university directive calling for a 25 percent reduction (approximately $10 million) in institutional support by 2023).”

“While this is a painful decision, it is in the best interest of the long-term viability of UConn and UConn athletics,” UConn president Thomas Katsouleas said. “The Division of Athletics recently completed a thorough and comprehensive review of its operation and programs, an inquiry initiated long before the COVID-19 crisis began. For several years, the level of institutional financial support committed to athletics has been growing. Today, we shared some difficult decisions that nonetheless should chart a course towards better financial sustainability at a level of support and sport sponsorship more in line with our peers.”

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UConn says it will honor the scholarships of all 124 student-athletes impacted by the cuts. The moves leave the university with about 530 athletes across 20 intercollegiate programs.

"This was a very difficult, but necessary, decision," said director of athletics David Benedict, who has taken a voluntary 15 percent pay reduction. "Reducing expenses is critical to our financial sustainability but that doesn't make this decision any more palatable for the student-athletes and coaches on the affected teams.  We are committed to providing impacted Huskies with our full support during this transition, whether they wish to stay at UConn or transfer to another institution. Despite our current emotions, we are optimistic that the financial plan approved today will serve as an important roadmap for a bright future for UConn athletics."

The public was aware that financial shortfalls were going to necessitate discontinued teams. Therefore, fundraising efforts have already been underway in an attempt to save programs. The Q&A section of UConn’s press release said that “private fundraising is not a sustainable solution. Even with a reduced number of programs for our student-athletes, fundraising will still need to be a major revenue source for those remaining programs.”

UConn is doing more than discontinuing sports. Remaining budget cuts of about $10 million per year will come from actions like reducing travel for non-conference games, reducing the cost of scholarships, and reducing the number of scholarships offered for men’s golf and men’s track and field. The school said that football isn’t moving to the FSC level because the savings would be outweighed by the loss in revenue opportunities.

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The University of Northern Colorado also announced Wednesday that it’s discontinuing its men’s and women’s tennis programs as of July 1. The school’s press release said the moves were “part of overall cost-saving efforts enacted as a result of budget shortfalls related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reducing the number of sponsored intercollegiate athletics programs to 17 sports.”

The university in Greeley is also furloughing employees, reducing athletic travel and making other reductions that are expected to have at least $500,000 in combined savings.

"This is one of the most excruciating decisions you can be involved in as an athletics director," director of athletics Darren Dunn said. "There is no right time or easy way to come to this conclusion. Many factors were involved in arriving at this difficult choice, one we had to make for the long-term sustainability of our athletics department. Unfortunately, due to facility and budget limitations, we cannot provide a championship experience for our tennis student-athletes." 

The Associated Press’ list of athletic programs that have cut during the pandemic was at 133 as of Wednesday, including 36 Division I programs, 54 Division II programs, 31 Division III programs and 12 NAIA programs.

Related content: Winthrop Discontinues Tennis Due to Financial Struggles

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