Sometime back in the summer I wrote about colleges cutting sports programs at an alarming rate.
On Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment on the same thing. I figured now was a good time to revisit that issue and provide more answers to why this is happening so much across the country.
The segment was eye-opening as members of some of the programs that have been or will be cut in the near future talked about the issues surrounding the financial situation due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, 30 universities have cut 100 programs including soccer, squash, gymnastics and track and field. Stanford University alone cut 11 sports. More than 1,500 student-athletes now do not have a team to play for, according to the segment on Sunday.
This isn’t a new concept for athletic directors at colleges and universities across the country. The easiest thing to do when they are going through financial turmoil is to cut programs to save money. But there are people on the outside looking in at these cuts saying that there are other ways to trim budgets to save money.
Victoria Jackson, a former NCAA nation championship winner in the 10,000 meters at Arizona State, is now on the faculty at Arizona State where she specializes in the history of college sports, including the history of secondary sports being cut.
Jackson spoke on 60 Minutes about the pattern of schools cutting non-revenue sports to save money. She said every time there is a financial problem, whether it is the current pandemic or the Great Recession after 2008, the first move is to cut the non-revenue sports.
The problem some see with these cuts is that the moneymakers, football and basketball, are catered to and everything is done by the schools to get them back on the field or court. Television revenue drives schools to get these teams back to playing to ensure that they can bring that money in.
But at what cost of getting them on the field? The entire team and staff are being tested for COVID-19 daily and having to make changes to locker rooms and stadiums to get back to play. Even the constant testing isn’t helping as both football and basketball at the college level have been ravaged by positive cases, cancellations and postponements. I don’t have financials to look at, but if I did I would bet they are spending a lot of money in tests, PPE and other sanitation products.
One statistic that blew my mind from the segment is that each year CBS and Turner pay the NCAA almost $1 billion to televise the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which was canceled back in March due to the pandemic. In comparison, eliminating men’s gymnastics, tennis and indoor track at the University of Minnesota is saving the school $1.6 million. Those figures don’t add up when it come to balancing the numbers.
Athletic directors are always using non-revenue generating sports to justify saving money by cutting them, but the problem is the money being saved isn’t close to what they need to balance the losses.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that if you walk into a football or basketball facility at a top Division 1 school and then walk into the facilities of a non-revenue sport, you will see a major difference.
Maybe they need to start looking at using some of that money from the football and basketball facilities to allow the other student-athletes a chance to play the sport they worked their entire lives for. Just a thought.