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Supporters Renew Push to Restore Gophers Programs

Tabatha Wethal

Advocates of sports at the University of Minnesota are pushing to bring back three programs that were cut last year because of funding challenges created by the pandemic.

Several supporters showed up to the Board of Regents meeting this week to ask that men’s tennis, track and field and gymnastics return, according to KMSP-TV.

The effort in Minneapolis is similar to efforts made by other schools like Stanford -- which is continuing 11 sports programs using private fundraising. Gophers’ athletics advocates are hoping to at least start a conversation about creative funding possibilities.

The meeting left some supporters frustrated, including men’s gymnastics coach Mike Burns, who lost his job after the team was cut in October, KMSP-TV reported.

"Why not take a look at self-funding models that have been presented," Burns said. "Why not look at alumni donations differently? Why not look at people who have passion and desire? Why not give them opportunity to see that happen?"

KSMP-TV reported that the university’s budget shortfall was $170 million during the pandemic.

Burns said the athletic department's shortfall is $50 million. Burns told Athletic Business in a message Friday that the $50 million figure was relayed to athletic staff at an all-staff meeting June 15. It includes the total shortfall added between 2019 and projected through 2022, he said. 

The Regents approved a resolution last week to allow the university to take up to a $50 million loan to cover athletic department revenue losses.

The Board of Regents recommended that the group contact the office to get on the September agenda, noting that the meeting Wednesday was "jam packed."

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