242 different sports programs have been dropped, cut, or suspended because of budget concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic. That number will likely keep going up as more conferences and schools postpone their fall sports and, specifically, football seasons.
So far all fall sports in the NESCAC and Patriot League have been postponed. The Big 10 and Pac 12 have limited their seasons to conference only play, and numerous D2 and D3 institutions and conferences (Centennial Conference, etc.) have cancelled their seasons completely. Obviously other fall sports, (field hockey, volleyball, cross country, etc) besides just football have been suspended, but the financial impact of a cancelled or even shortened football season is tremendous for some schools.
Just how big is this financial hit for Power 5 schools? The average revenue for these schools is $78 million, according to USA today, and nearly $4.1 billion combined. These numbers are obviously going to be way less in 2020-21 simply because of the decrease/lack of ticket sales, as there most likely will not be fans in attendance if we get football back on the field. Football brings in nearly ⅔ of the revenue for these schools, which is obviously why these conferences are holding out as long as possible to try and get players on the turf come August. The money that football brings in, despite popular belief, actually benefits ALL of the sports in the athletic department by improving facilities and bolstering team budgets.
As fall seasons are being modified and cancelled conference by conference, the impact can be felt from high D1 to D3 programs and nobody is exempt. However, the bigger name schools always make the headlines and last week two D1 athletic programs were forced to cut numerous sports due to lack of funds.
Last Wednesday, Stanford discontinued 11 sports teams: men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling. They will also be eliminating 20 support staff positions. Fortunately, the contracts of the 11 coaches will be honored as will the 240 scholarships of affected athletes. Stanford is the first Power 5 school to eliminate sports as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and diminished football season. This decision came on the heels of a financial projection of a $25 million deficit due to coronavirus this upcoming year, and an estimation that retaining the 11 sports permanently would cost nearly $200 million. This is all speculation, but you have to think that if a full football season could be played this fall Stanford likely would not have to cut all of these sports.
On a much smaller financial scale, but similar situation, Dartmouth has cut 5 varsity sports programs: swimming and diving, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s lightweight rowing. These cuts affect 110 student-athletes and 15 staff members, including eight coaches. These cuts will save the school $2 million and they will continue to have 30 division 1 programs active.
These two schools are just the most recent and notable to make headlines, but the list of sports being cut continues to grow by the day as schools are being hit hard by the pandemic. As tragic as it is, with so many athletes losing their seasons and even teams, there are some positive stories in the making here.
UConn tennis, track, and golf are all on the hot seat awaiting decisions about sports cuts in the athletic department, but they aren’t just sitting around waiting to get the axe. These three teams have reached out to alumni for donations, as well as anyone who is willing and able, and raised substantial amounts of money to try and save the programs. The track and field program has obtained nearly $1.6 million in pledges from alumni and others. Men’s golf is up to $270,000 for this year, and nearly $900,000 across the next five years through their alumni network. The tennis program has also raised nearly $300,000. It is unclear exactly what these funds will be used for as the athletic department awaits decisions on budget cuts and fall sports, but it is truly incredible the money that has been raised in such a short time.
The strength of the alumni network at UConn is noteworthy, and there are also several other programs who have turned to alumni for help saving their team. This truly shows the lifetime impact of playing a college sport, as so many people are willing to give back even in a time of global financial hardship, in order to give student-athletes the same experience they had. If you are an alumni of a school that is potentially cutting sports teams, reach out and look into donating! Even if your team isn’t getting the axe, all college sports programs are suffering and could use as much help as they can get.