College Athletic Programs Being Cut Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in several businesses closing due to health and safety concerns, as well as financial issues. Now some universities around the country are being forced to shutter their athletic programs. Old Dominion ended its wrestling program while the University of Cincinnati eliminated men's soccer.

These decisions are being made due to the coronavirus and its effect on budgets. Those programs that are viewed as "nonrevenue" due to higher operating costs and not bringing any funding to the universities could be eliminated. The wrestling and soccer programs are early examples of cuts, and more are expected to be revealed as the pandemic continues. However, the student-athletes are hoping that all other options "will be exhausted" prior to their programs being eliminated.

"Regardless of understanding the circumstances or not, we thought that we were untouchable to getting cut because we're some of the most consistent with our winning," said Ali Wahab, a senior from Old Dominion University, per Inside Higher Ed. "I'm feeling angry about how they decided to cut wrestling and trying to hold myself back from saying something I shouldn't every time someone talks about it." The university said in a statement that the move will save $1 million.

The NCAA's Division I Conferences are asking for a temporary reduction of the number of sports that they are required to sponsor amid these financial issues. The NCAA bylaws state that Division I schools are required to sponsor at least 16 sports programs, including football. A minimum of six of these teams must be men's or mixed-gender. Another eight must be all-female programs.

Kathy DeBoer, the executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, does not support this proposal to temporarily reduce the number of required teams. She and the other leaders in the Intercollegiate Coach Association Coalition believe that this would allow a move to eliminate some of the "nonrevenue" programs. She said that the idea of sponsoring fewer sports is "lethal and toxic."

"Sports can recover from schedule changes and reductions. Sports can recover from staffing reductions and even scholarship reductions," DeBoer said, per Inside Higher Ed. "We can recover from anything but extinction. You don't recover from extinction."


ESPN reported in late April that the Division I Conferences had sent a letter to the NCAA asking for a four-year waiver for required sports programs. The Power 5 (PAC-12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12) sent the initial request but were later joined by the remaining 22 Division I Conferences. Coaches from the "nonrevenue" programs responded by sending their own letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert expressing their disagreement.

"Reducing the minimum sports sponsorship requirement that would open the door to eliminating sports should not be an option," the letter said, per ESPN. "We are all in this together, and we are ready, eager, and willing to partner with the NCAA to find creative solutions for the challenges to come. America's students have had so much taken from them. Now is not the time to cut them off from yet another critical institution that makes university life so special."