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University of Minnesota eliminates four men’s sports, facing massive revenue hit

Matt Johnson
Minnesota Golden Gophers University athletics flag
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The COVID-19 pandemic brought collegiate sports to a halt and dealt seismic blows to athletic departments, with the University of Minnesota the latest to suffer a staggering hit.

Across the country, universities are cutting countless sports and making drastic budgetary changes due to massive revenue hits. While it began at smaller FBS and FCS programs, big cuts are now being made at Power 5 universities.

Minnesota Golden Gophers cut four sports programs amid budget cuts

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit early this year, it forced the cancelation of March Madness, which cost the NCAA nearly $500 million in revenue. It also wiped out all collegiate sports and put all fall sports in jeopardy. Universities were immediately impacted, leading to coaches and staff taking pay cuts in early efforts to curb lost revenue.

Unfortunately, the situation grew more dire and the ramifications played out across the country and impacted programs of all sizes.

Now, per The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, the inevitable disaster is playing out in Minnesota. The athletic department projects losing approximately $75 million in revenue this academic year, a catastrophic blow to the university’s budget.

As a result, pending approval from the board of regents, the Golden Gophers will end their men’s indoor track & field, men’s outdoor track & field, men’s gymnastics and men’s tennis programs at the end of the 2020-’21 seasons.

The decision comes after the program’s athletic director and top coaches, including football coach P.J. Fleck, voluntarily took 10% pay reductions this year. The cuts, which will extend through the remainder of the fiscal year, are projected to save $1.2 million.

Unfortunately, the toll is even worse for Big 10 programs with the conference canceling football this fall. The decision is also taking a toll on the University of Michigan, which faces an even bigger hit to its revenue if no fall sports are played. The Iowa State Cyclones face a similar economic fallout, too.

While the schools eliminating sports programs are honoring scholarships for student-athletes, it is still another heart-wrenching outcome from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 12, ACC and SEC programs might avoid the same magnitude of an economic hit by playing football this fall. If an outbreak happens and programs are forced to stop playing, then things could get far worse for more schools, coaches and student-athletes.