University of Minnesota to discontinue 4 teams from athletics department

The pandemic is creating an estimated $75M loss of revenue this fiscal year.
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Goldy Gopher

Stock image of the Gopher mascot, "Goldy."

Facing an estimated revenue loss of $75 million this fiscal year, the University of Minnesota announced Thursday that it will eliminate four varsity sports: men's indoor track and field, men's outdoor track and field, men's gymnastics and men's tennis. 

A vote by the Board of Regents is the only thing that stands in the way of the sports being discontinued, and with the expectation that the U of M's recommendation will be approved by the board, all three sports will be eliminated from the athletics department after the 2020-21 competition season. It will directly affect 58 student-athletes. 

A statement from the U of M said the $75 million revenue loss will have a lasting impact for "years to come," and that the decision to cut men's programs maintains the U's goal to "remain steadfast in our commitment to provide Title IX gender-equitable participation opportunities." 

"Once we determined that we simply are no longer able to sustain 25 sports financially, we reviewed our overall sport offering with an eye toward a sports sponsorship model that would provide sustainable, competitive and equitable participation opportunities for our remaining programs," explained Director of Athletics Mark Coyle.

"Due to recent shifts in our female and male undergraduate demographics, we also needed to take steps to ensure compliance with our commitment to provide gender-equitable participation opportunities for our students consistent with federal law requirements. We also considered community impact, local and national interest, competitiveness, and sport sponsorship at the Big Ten and NCAA Division I level."

In addition to reducing the number of varsity sports from 25 to 21, "most" academic professional and administrative employees in the athletics department will be hit with 10% reduction in appointment, which ultimately will result in lower pay. Civil service and labor-represented employees will be furloughed for 17 days. Employees who make $40,000 or less won't be impacted. 

Not only that, but in addition to coaches and staff that will lose their jobs as a result of their sport being discontinued, eight other employees in the athletics department will be permanently laid off, which will save the department approximately $1.3 million. 

Athletics department leaders and coaches who previously volunteered for a 10% salary reduction will see that pay cut continue through the end of the fiscal year, resulting in a savings of $1.2 million. 

"In short, we have tried to find a way to avoid these difficult decisions. Unfortunately, we could not overcome the challenges presented by these unprecedented times," said U of M President Joan Gabel, in a statement. 

The Big Ten recently postponed the start of all Big fall sports because of the pandemic, and earlier Thursday all Division I college hockey conferences were involved in an announcement that the upcoming season for men's and women's teams will be delayed. 

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