WCCO APP: Click here to download WCCO’s new news app.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota Board of Regents voted 7 to 5 in favor of cutting three Gopher athletics programs.
The university is cutting men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis, and also men’s indoor track.
It’s meant to address a $75 million budget shortfall due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also meet Title 9 gender equity requirements.
“It is a tough day but it is an important day as we come together to solve problems, as is our duty to do,” President Joan Gabel said.
The proposal had been revised, which saved men’s outdoor track and field from being cut. It will be reevaluated next spring.
Throughout the early afternoon, the Board of Regents weighed the pros and cons of cutting men’s gymnastics, tennis and track and field, programs that have produced Olympic athletes. But some regents worried that delaying a decision could put more stress on the budget.
“I’m sorry that we have gotten to this point but I don’t see any other way around this situation,” Richard Beeson, with the Board of Regents, said.
“While these decisions are necessary for the long-term sustainability of Gopher Athletics and the opportunities it will offer student-athletes in the years to come, I feel deeply for those who are affected by these changes today,” said Board Chair Ken Powell.
Powell says it was clear that significant change was needed as the board reviewed the sports department’s financial challenges over the last few years, saying the move is necessary for the long-term sustainability of Gopher Athletics.
“I know Mark Coyle and his leadership team will move forward from today with compassion for those directly affected and caution as they chart out a successful path forward for Gopher Athletics through the challenges they presently face,” he said.
Students participating in the affected programs will have the opportunity to compete this year, should health and safety precautions allow that to happen.
“The track is sensitive to me but also there is a gymnastics and tennis family that are feeling the exact, same thing if not worse because their programs are eliminated completely,” Ben Kampf said.
He and his wife Heather watched the Board of Regents’ discussion virtually. Heather, a former national champion and nine-time All-American, is happy men’s outdoor track was saved but believes the decision to eliminate indoor track will affect the entire program.
“The track and field program is the number two diverse program at the University. A place where you give a lot of people different opportunities,” she said.
Like sports alumni from the other programs that were eliminated, the Kampfs are deciding whether or not they want to keep donating to the university, since these sports are closing in on a different kind of finish line.
“Since the outdoor track team is still there, I want to do whatever we can to keep that program going as fully strong as long as we can,” Ben Kampf said.
The Board of Regents will take another look at men’s outdoor track in a department-wide update expected next spring.