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Board of Regents votes to eliminate three men’s sports

On Friday, the Board of Regents voted to move forward with the athletics department’s proposal to eliminate men’s indoor track, gymnastics and tennis. The three programs will be discontinued after the 2020-21 school year.
Image by Parker Johnson
Junior Shane Wiskus performs on the rings during the meet against against the Fighting Illini at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Jan. 24.

On Friday, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents passed the athletics department’s proposal to eliminate three men’s sports: indoor track and field, tennis and gymnastics. A revised proposal introduced Friday included only the elimination of indoor track and field, rather than both indoor and outdoor.

The decision on the motion regarding the vote to eliminate the three sports following the conclusion of the 2020-21 season was passed on a 7-5 vote. A motion was made to delay the vote until a later date, but was rejected on a 7-5 vote.

The proposal to cancel all three sports had been widely argued across the Gophers athletics community. University President Joan Gabel opened the meeting with an introduction to the issue.

“We have heard significant feedback from a wide variety of constituencies,” Gabel said. “I want everyone listening to know that we are listening to that feedback and we are aware and deeply respect that this is a very difficult decision for everyone involved.”

In May, 2020 the University’s athletic department had forecasted a revenue shortfall as high as $75 million for this fiscal year. They are expected to retain $9.5 million in proposed savings from coaching salary cuts and numerous budget cuts. With the Big Ten conference’s recent return of football they now expect only a $30 million loss for the 2021 year.

The department’s previous proposal at September’s Board meeting had stated the eliminated positions and pay cuts will save the department $1.3 million this fiscal year, $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. The new proposal will save the department $1.6 million this fiscal year.

The proposal had stated that every impacted student-athlete will continue to earn their scholarship that had previously been offered as well as continue to have access to academic advising, athletic medicine and mental health resources until each student has the opportunity to earn their undergraduate degree from the University.

Minnesota athletics director Mark Coyle’s presentation continued with regards to the impact that Title IX would have on the elimination of all three sports.

“The impetus for sports reduction is financial. The proposed plan also recognizes our obligation to provide Title IX gender-equitable participation opportunities for female and male athletes,” Coyle said. “We need to address the underrepresentation and unfortunately we are not in a financial position to add any teams.”

The initial proposal also would include mass cuts to women’s programs. Coyle’s revised proposal – with the elimination of only indoor but not outdoor track and field – the department expects less cuts to women’s sports, but did not provide an update to expected roster spots for team’s in 2021-22.

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