The University of Minnesota plans to reduce non-revenue sports rosters by next year, meaning women student-athletes will be let go in addition to the full cutting of men's track and field, tennis and gymnastics.
A Gophers official confirmed to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the university plans to have 98 fewer athletes on its non-revenue teams, meaning 41 previously unreported women’s athlete cuts in addition to 57 men affected by the elimination of the aforementioned three sports.
Beyond terminating those three men’s programs, pending Board of Regents approval, the Gophers project smaller rosters for eight women’s and two men’s teams, according to data obtained by the Star Tribune from the athletic department. Six men’s teams and one women’s team are predicted to add to their rosters.
Women’s cross-country team, for example, is projected to have 20 athletes next fall, down from 34. The Gophers women’s rowing team will lose 15 athletes, according to the projections.
“We’re not going to let it go down without a fight,” women's cross country captain Tate Sweeney said. “It feels like we’re objects rather than people.”
As reported by the Star Tribune, the university is projecting major revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is looking to save money in many ways. The school also needed to bring the gender balance of Gophers athletes into alignment with the student body. The current undergraduate enrollment is 54 percent women and 46 percent men.
But dropping the men’s programs put the student-athlete ratio at 59 percent women and 41 percent men, forcing the university to shrink women’s rosters to get to the proper ratio.
The early September announcement of the sports cuts noted “roster adjustments in women’s programs” would be required, without offering specifics. Sweeney, a redshirt junior from Edina, said the athletic department has not informed her and her teammates about the reduction.
“No one has told that to us,” she said Wednesday. “We’ve been in meetings. We have said, ‘With Title IX, and you cutting these men, it makes it so women have to get cut.’ … They’ve told us it’s not going to happen and that we are okay.”
According to an athletic department spokesman, the athletic administration communicated with the head coaches of impacted women’s sports about the cuts. What that communication included, and whether that communication reached student-athletes, was unclear. The Star Tribune reports it has requested clarification from athletic director Mark Coyle since Monday to no avail.