Gophers athletics cuts several men’s sports for next season

The programs will be discontinued for both financial and Title IX-related financial sustainability issues, but would be able to compete in the 2020-21 season.


Image by Parker Johnson

A cloth mask and bouquet of flowers are seen on the Goldy statue outside Coffman Memorial Union on Wednesday, April 1. (Parker Johnson / Minnesota Daily)

by Julianna Landis

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so do the financial struggles of college athletics departments across the country.
Minnesota’s athletics department Thursday made the announcement that they would be cutting their men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and both the indoor and outdoor men’s track and field teams at the end of the 2020-21 season. 58 student-athletes are in the four programs.
The department also explains in its statement that with 25 teams, another factor in their decision was adhering to Title IX regulations that align with male and female student enrollment percentages.
“We are mindful that our sport programs have worked to adjust their participation opportunities to keep pace with our growing female undergraduate population percentages,” said athletics director Mark Coyle and University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel in a joint statement.
Should these teams be able to participate in their sports and not face cancellations due to COVID-19, they will be able to, as the cancellation does not go into effect until the end of this current season.
Student-athletes will continue to receive existing athletic scholarships if they continue their undergraduate degree at the University.
The University administrators also announced pay cuts and furloughs for staff who make more than $40,000, on top of already existing reductions. Alongside positions that will be eliminated due to the four discontinued programs, the athletics department is also cutting eight jobs.
Coyle and head coaches P.J. Fleck, Hugh McCutcheon, Bob Motzko, Richard Pitino and Lindsay Whalen will receive a 10% salary reduction – which they volunteered for earlier – for the rest of the year, saving the department $1.2 million.
Although the athletics department is predicting a $75 million deficit, the eliminated positions and pay cuts will only save the department $1.3 million this fiscal year. According to the statement, the University anticipates saving $2 million in fiscal year 2022 and annual savings of $2.7 million once all student-athletes in the program on athletics-based aid have graduated.
Coyle spoke to media following the announcement, reiterating that finances and Title IX were both contributing factors in the decision to cut these programs, and said an increase in female undergraduate students has changed the overall demographic of the undergraduate population, which plays a role in Title IX compliance.
“There’s obviously a financial sustainability side that we’re looking at… but we continuously monitor our compliance with Title IX, and I can tell you that over the past few years the female undergraduate population of our campus has increased by about two to three percent. So, when we make these adjustments, pending the Board approval, we will now mirror campus with respect to having approximately 54% female and 46% of our athletes being male,” Coyle said.
Coyle said he spoke to all staff and coaches impacted by the decision via Zoom Thursday, but expressed regret for not being able to speak to them in person given the weight of these decisions.
The $75 million in projected losses is coming at the department from all sides, as Coyle said the number was calculated from major decline in all major revenue streams for the department as sports continue to be put on hold. Everything from television deals to concessions was impacted, including the financial hit from last spring’s NCAA Tournament being canceled.
“With us not being able to play football right now, and volleyball, soccer, some of those programs are not being on our network’s channels… Almost all of our revenue streams have absorbed some sort of hit because of the pandemic that we’re just trying to navigate our way through.”