Collegiate Athletics Not Escaping Economic Concerns
The current state of the economy has people buzzing not only in Washington, but around college campuses all over the country as well. As institutions are coping with decreasing state aid and dwindling endowments, tough decisions are being made on every campus and athletics has not been immune. To date, six Division I institutions have officially dropped a total of 10 sports for the 2009-10 academic year. Unfortunately, the dropping of sports will only increase as institutions process the realities of their FY10 budgets.
If you look at the Division I institutions that have officially announced the dropping of sport programs for FY10 [Portland State, Wagner, Pepperdine, Northern Iowa, Vermont, Iona], none of these schools are considered Division I powerhouses. Couple the fact that they all have limited budgets and resources with an economic downturn, and you create a recipe for needing to make tough and radical decisions. Having been involved in the wrestling community most of my life, I am certainly not an advocate for dropping sport programs.
However, as a Division I administrator trying to balance minimum NCAA schedule requirements, safety and the experience of hundreds of student-athletes, I have come to understand that there does come a point where it is not possible to continue to cut operating budgets in an effort to avoid cutting sports. There does come a point, where the continual cut of staff and operating budgets not only compromises what we consider a Division I experience, but also potentially the safety of student-athletes. Additionally, the reality of this economic climate means limited opportunities to increase revenue to off-set any budget cuts. As a result, some institutions are left with few choices other than to drop sports.
At the same time, other units on campus are faced with similar difficult choices. The economy has forced our institutions to take a more business-like approach to every function on our campuses, from Student Affairs to academic units. Academic units on our campuses have also had to take a look at their program offerings. Colleges and academic departments are being reorganized, combined or discontinued. Idaho, Arizona State, and Florida are among schools that have dropped or are discussing dropping several academic programs [please see links below]. While the discussion regarding academic programs may not be making as many headlines, we need to remember that athletics is not the only unit on campus that is being forced to make some difficult decisions in light of the current economy.