Minnesota’s Board of Regents has voted to approve a resolution to eliminate the men’s indoor track and field, men’s tennis and men’s gymnastics teams at the end of the 2020-21 school year. A revised proposal that was submitted on Friday removed men’s outdoor track and field from the cuts.
A motion was made to delay the vote until a later date but it was rejected and the meeting proceeded. The proposal to eliminate three sports teams was passed on a 7-5 vote.
The initial plan to cut the teams was first announced on Sept. 10 and cited financial concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports including football. The university said the athletic department was facing a projected revenue loss of approximately $75 million.
On Sept. 16, the Big Ten reversed course and announced plans to start playing football in October. Minnesota associate athletic director Paul Rovnak said no plans changed regarding the plans to cut teams and told Sports Illustrated, “Athletics is still facing a significant loss in revenue, tens of millions of dollars this year alone, and still needs to take steps to ensure compliance with its commitment to provide gender-equitable participation opportunities for students consistent with federal law requirements.”
The current athletes impacted by the will have their scholarships honored through their graduation. The university will also allow athletes to transfer.
The board of regents also tried to alleviate concerns that the elimination of the three programs will drop men’s participation in Minnesota sports teams and could force the athletic department to eliminate other women’s team sports spots to maintain the Title IX undergraduate population ratio. During Friday’s meeting, it was mentioned that the revised proposal that was approved would mean fewer cuts to women’s sports.
Minnesota athletics director Mark Coyle was asked by regent Michael D. Hsu how much the plan to cut these teams would save.
“I believe that number will be $1.6 million,” Coyle responded.
The men’s track and field program has been well-represented on the post-collegiate running circuit with 2016 U.S. Olympians Ben Blankenship and Hassan Mead.
“Clearly, this was a done deal, made long ago by choice and not a necessity – because there is no doubt people would contribute to support this program,” Blankenship wrote on Twitter last month. “I am proud of the community I was part of but now I only represent my fellow athletes and the coaches who made this program a success. Never again will I represent the University of Minnesota as an institution. What a sham.”
More than 25,700 people have signed a Change.org petition to reinstate the men’s track and field team.