Athletic directors are being put in uncomfortable spots because of COVID-19.
The University of Arizona recently announced that it is expecting a $7.5 million budget shortfall by the end of the fiscal year, which ends in June. A lot of that is because the NCAA Tournament was canceled, and the amount of revenue allotted to conferences dropped from $600 million to $225 million as a result.
Things will get much, much worse if the coronavirus crisis bleeds into college football season, the big moneymaker, which is becoming increasingly likely by the day.
In the meantime, athletic departments have to cut costs somehow, and Arizona has done that by furloughing employees, asking others to take pay cuts, and implementing hiring freezes.
Another way schools can reduce their deficit? By eliminating sports that operate at a loss. At Arizona, like most schools, that is every sport but basketball and football.
The University of Cincinnati recently cut its men’s soccer program after it had operating losses north of $700,000 this year, the cost of scholarships, equipment, travel, coaching salaries, etc. Old Dominion shuttered its wrestling program after a study showed it could save the school $1 million.
More schools are going to follow suit, opines The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach:
Cutting sports sucks. But it's going to keep happening, and some of it will be opportunistic — the school had been wanting to cut that sport, but the current crisis gives them a reason to do it now. That also sucks, but it will happen as well as those cut out of necessity.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) April 14, 2020
Right now, Arizona isn’t one of them.
“We have no plans to cut any sports or reduce or sport lineup in any way,” athletic director Dave Heeke said in an interview with Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star. “Our intention is to continue to move forward with the full sport offerings that we have.”
Arizona currently offers 19 sports. Below are the scholarship limits for each one.
(Track and field and cross country are grouped together and are also coached by the same people—Fred Harvey and James Li, an important thing to think about if you’re trying to assess the cost of those programs.)
- Men’s basketball — 13
- Women’s basketball — 15
- Football — 85
- Baseball — 11.7
- Softball — 12
- Women’s soccer — 14
- Women’s gymnastics — 12
- Men’s tennis — 4.5
- Women’s tennis — 8
- Men’s golf — 4.5
- Women’s golf — 6
- Women’s volleyball — 12
- Women’s swimming and diving — 14
- Men’s swimming and diving — 10
- Men’s track and field (including cross country) — 12.6
- Women’s track and field (including cross country) — 18
- Women’s beach volleyball — 6
Men’s sports are easier to cut for Title IX reasons. Women’s sports typically have to be cut in concurrence with an equivalent men’s sport. So, cutting beach volleyball and, say, men’s tennis might work since their scholarship counts are similar.
The UA has added three sports since 1994, all of the women’s variety—soccer (1994), women’s indoor track and field (1998) and beach volleyball (2014).
Arizona is still below average in the Pac-12 when it comes to how many sports it offers. Here’s how things look around the conference:
- Stanford — 36
- Cal — 28
- ASU — 24
- UCLA — 21
- USC — 20
- Washington — 20
- Arizona — 19
- Oregon — 18
- Utah — 18
- Oregon State — 16
- Colorado — 15
- Washington State — 15