The University of Minnesota's decision to cut three sports will get the "60 Minutes'' treatment Sunday, when the CBS news program airs a story about how universities are dropping nonrevenue sports in the wake of pandemic-related financial losses.
Gophers gymnast Shane Wiskus is featured prominently in the story, reported by "60 Minutes'' correspondent Bill Whitaker. A CBS news release said the segment examines how the "lives and dreams of athletes in 'secondary sports' are being sacrificed on the altar of big time college sports.'' The U announced in September it will cut men's gymnastics, men's tennis and men's indoor track and field after this season, citing Title IX concerns and budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic.
"60 Minutes'' airs on WCCO (Ch. 4) at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Whitaker's report says at least 30 Division I universities have cut nearly 100 programs, affecting more than 1,500 athletes. Clemson, which is dropping men's track and field and cross-country, and Stanford, which is cutting 11 sports, are among other schools mentioned.
The story will focus on the U, which also is reducing rosters of some women's teams as it tries to cut expenses. Whitaker notes that eliminating the three sports will save a total of $1.6 million per year, while Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck — who took a coronavirus-related pay cut — will still make more than $4 million this year.
Wiskus, a senior from Spring Park, tells Whitaker he does not regret coming to the U but is "still mad'' at the decision to drop his sport. The uncertainty created by the program's elimination led Wiskus, a top contender for the Olympic team, to move to Colorado Springs last month to train at the U.S. Olympic training center. He still could compete for the Gophers this winter in virtual meets.
Men's gymnastics coach Mike Burns also is interviewed. Burns, who has been outspoken about the cuts, told Whitaker that athletic directors drop sports as a quick fix instead of looking for better solutions. He also said it "doesn't make sense'' to claim that cutting his program's $750,000 annual budget helps plug a deficit the U estimates at $45 to $65 million.