The University of Minnesota Board of Regents won’t make the athletic department’s decision to cut three sports official until a future meeting, likely Oct. 8-9.
The Gophers announced Thursday their intention of trimming three men’s sports and salaries for both financial and Title IX reasons, pending regents’ approval. The department faces $75 million in lost revenue now that the Big Ten Conference canceled fall sports, including football, the biggest moneymaker, amid COVID-19 concerns.
Taking men’s tennis, men’s gymnastics and men’s track and field (indoor and outdoor) out of the equation would save the Gophers $2 million in fiscal year 2022, with an annual savings of $2.7 million once all athletes with athletic aid graduate. It also will help the Gophers’ athletic participation better mirror the campus’ overall female undergraduate population, which stands at 54%.
The board did vote 11-1 on Friday to pass the department’s plan for further furloughs and pay cuts, which will save the department about $1.3 million, on top of the $1.2 million saved from athletic director Mark Coyle and his top-five highest paid head coaches taking 10% reductions.
With the board not yet voting on eliminating sports, several supporters of those teams have voiced their wishes to save the programs. Gymnastics coach Mike Burns took to Twitter to urge people to contact the board ahead of the meeting to share their disapproval. Former Gophers runner Justin Grunewald pointed supporters to an online petition to save the men’s track and field program, which already has more than 4,000 signatures. On his Twitter, Grunewald called the decision to cut the program “shameful” and “far from over.”
The board though — in discussing Coyle, President Joan Gabel and athletic department CFO Rhonda McFarland’s presentation — didn’t give any indication they wouldn’t support the removal.
Regent Steven Sviggum even said given the immense financial pitfall and legal Title IX issues, this was the sole solution.
“These extremely difficult, tough, painful decisions might be our only options,” he said. “ … I don’t think we have choices.”