SBD/November 22, 2011/Colleges

Maryland President OKs Athletic Cuts, But Offers Lifeline To Affected Programs

All eight sports in jeopardy of being eliminated need to combine to raise $29.05M

Univ. of Maryland President Wallace Loh "accepted the recommendations of an athletic commission to cut eight of the school's 27 sports, but also offered a lifeline by granting the affected programs the opportunity to raise eight years of total costs by June 30 to save themselves," according to Patrick Stevens of the WASHINGTON TIMES. The commission released its report last week "suggesting that the university, which has exhausted its supply of reserve athletics funding, eliminate teams in acrobatics and tumbling (formerly competitive cheerleading); men’s and women’s swimming and diving; men’s tennis; men’s cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field; and women’s water polo." The total that all of the sports "need to raise is $29.05 million." The process to "raise the funds has started." The M Club, the school’s "letter-winner-booster organization, has pledged $1 million toward the campaign." Loh "wrote in his formal response that all athletic scholarship commitments and affected coaches’ contracts will be honored," while AD Kevin Anderson "wrote that two senior development staff members will be allocated to the effort full time." The teams "would need to raise enough money to endow their respective programs in perpetuity by 2020." In response, the swimming and diving teams "announced the creation of the nonprofit Save Maryland Swimming and Diving Inc. in an attempt to generate the needed money before June 30." Loh "accepted the commission’s other recommendations, which included improving collaboration between the university and the Athletic Department; reinvesting resources to provide more academic advisers, athletic trainers and sports medicine personnel into remaining teams; and creating greater clarity in the Athletic Department's financial reports" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 11/22).

ON THE DECLINE: In DC, Charles Iane notes revenue from men’s basketball and football has been "declining for years, mirroring the teams’ declining win-loss records -- which is the main reason for the cutbacks to the likes of track and water polo." An alternative strategy "might be to reduce the 'revenue' programs to a more human scale -- say, the lower-budget approach of the academically excellent schools, such as the Naval Academy and Bucknell, that participate in the Patriot League." Instead, Maryland is "doubling down on the big-time athletic paradigm -- and all the tensions between that model and the academic mission of the university -- in the hopes that better days are coming for its prestige sports" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/22). Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic's Ivan Carter said, "This happened because the football program has struggled. They built all these suites a few years ago. They’re paying the old coach $2 million now. This is all about not being good enough at football; that’s the root of the problem." WTEM-AM Steve Czaban said, “It’s more than just football. This is a ploy here. I think someone is going to come in and save some of these programs. Other schools have done this where they say, ‘We’ve got to cut all these other minor sports,’ and then they find the money" (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 11/21).

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