On Wednesday, UConn athletic director David Benedict presented a proposal to the Board of Trustees to eliminate men’s cross country, men’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and women’s rowing at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year. The rest of the athletic department will reduce operating budgets by 15 percent and see a reduction of scholarships in men’s golf and men’s track and field. Benedict will also take a voluntary 15 percent pay cut.
“This was a very difficult, but necessary, decision,” Benedict said in a release. “Reducing expenses is critical to our financial sustainability but that doesn’t make this decision any more palatable for the student-athletes and coaches on the affected teams. We are committed to providing impacted Huskies with our full support during this transition, whether they wish to stay at UConn or transfer to another institution. Despite our current emotions, we are optimistic that the financial plan approved today will serve as an important roadmap for a bright future for UConn athletics.”
These cuts come as UConn attempts to shed 25 percent of its roughly $40 million subsidy over the next three years, a total which amounts to around $10 million. 124 student-athletes will be affected. The school will honor the scholarships who choose to stay at UConn and complete their degree.
According to the Hartford Courant, the rowing program’s 14.7 scholarships are spread out across 25 athletes, with 47 total athletes on its roster. It costs the athletic department roughly $1.5 million per year but that figure includes around $650,000 in scholarship money, which is essentially just moved from one part of the school to the other. It also doesn’t account for the money brought in to the school by the 27 student-athletes that don’t receive any aid.
As for the men’s swimming and diving team, it has 29 athletes — 14 of which receive some piece of the program’s 5.87 allotted scholarships. Overall, the program costs around $720,000, with scholarship money accounting for $282,000.
Overall, the school claims that it will save $2 million with these cuts over four years.
With these programs eliminated, UConn will reduce its total number of sponsored sports from 24 — one of the highest totals in Division I and six more than the Big East average of 18 — to 20. The NCAA requires Division I schools to have a minimum of 16 sports.
While many fans have pointed to UConn’s floundering football program as a way to save money, either by dropping it to the FCS or eliminating it all together, the school noted that it wouldn’t necessarily make much of a difference in the budget picture. From the release:
The savings from such a move would be outweighed by a significant decline in revenue opportunities. The newly-signed agreement with CBS Sports Network, would be nullified by a reclassification to FCS. Similarly, our multi-media marketing rights deal with Learfield/IMG College and our all-sport equipment deal with Nike would suffer greatly or not exist if we dropped to the FCS level. Currently, revenue from these two agreements is nearly $3.7 million annually.
Additionally, UConn would forfeit the ability to maximize revenue generation by securing premium guarantee games and would no longer have the ability to secure quality opponents such as Purdue, Syracuse, North Carolina, Maryland and Boston College in home-and-home series.
UConn football has a proud history and has proven to be a rallying point for alumni and fans in support of the state’s flagship institution. Dropping the program to the FCS level may diminish overall interest from our constituents, inhibit its potential to be a rallying force, and hinder its ability to drive revenue.
When news first broke that UConn was expected to cut sports in order to reduce the subsidy, alumni from the Huskies’ golf team raised $500,000 to save the program while the track program pulled together $1.5 million in donations as well. However, the school said this did not have an impact on its decision.
The only sport to be completely dropped is the rowing program. The women’s cross country, women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis teams will all remain.
During the public portion of the Board of Trustees meeting, 10 UConn track and field alumni made impassioned pleas along with one tennis alum. Women’s rowing head coach Jennifer Sanford spoke as well and revealed that her sport would be dropped.