In what is likely a sign of things to come as collegiate athletic departments deal with the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Cincinnati announced Tuesday that it has discontinued its men’s soccer program.
In a statement, UC athletic director John Cunningham said the decision was made after a “comprehensive and thorough review” of the school’s athletic department and the various sports it offers.
"This was a difficult decision, but one made with the long-term interests of UC Athletics at the forefront," Cunningham said. "During this time of profound challenges and widespread uncertainty, I have engaged in a comprehensive and thorough review of UC's sport offerings and long-term budget implications of supporting the number of student-athletes currently at UC. Based on this review, and in consultation with President Pinto and other University leaders, UC Athletics will no longer sponsor a men's soccer program.”
The decision is effective immediately. Scholarships for UC men’s soccer players will be honored for “the duration of their academic careers” at UC, the university said.
“Our men's soccer student-athletes have been outstanding representatives of the University in the classroom and on the field,” Cunningham said. “They may not fully understand this decision, but I want them to know they were truly and conscientiously considered during my deliberations about the future of UC Athletics. We are making this decision now to enable our men's soccer student-athletes to have an opportunity to play at another institution if they choose to do so.”
Cunningham said the university will help find a new school for UC soccer players who wish to continue their playing careers.
The Bearcats’ men’s soccer program dates back to 1973 and has an all-time record of 385-408-84.
Second school to cut program citing coronavirus
Cincinnati is the second university to cut a program citing the financial impact of the coronavirus.
Earlier this month, Old Dominion discontinued its wrestling program. The school said it had taken a long look at the finances of its athletic department — a study that began months before the pandemic. However, the spread of COVID-19 and its effect on college athletics made it clear that the school needed to cut costs.
“No one wants to reduce opportunities for young men to compete and represent Old Dominion, but we are required to be responsible with departmental resources,” ODU athletic director Dr. Camden Wood Selig said. “Our decision became even more clear during this coronavirus crisis, which we know will have significant impact on future athletics budgets. This decision will better allow the remaining sports to compete at a national level.”
Financial impact of coronavirus across NCAA
The spread of coronavirus caused the cancellation of many winter championships and all spring championships in college athletics. The biggest hit, of course, was the loss of the men’s basketball tournament — a key revenue source for the NCAA.
In the aftermath, the NCAA announced that it would distribute $225 million among its Division I members in June. That figure was initially projected to be around $600 million before coronavirus hit. That has a trickle-down effect from the NCAA to all of its member institutions — an effect that, as Cincinnati showed, is already being felt.
To help offset costs, top officials at the NCAA are taking pay cuts, as are conference and university administrators (and even some coaches) across the country. And with so many seasons wiped out, the NCAA moved to restore a year of eligibility for athletes who had their 2020 seasons canceled. With that, however, comes additional scholarship costs for seniors who would have exhausted their final year of eligibility but are now able to return to campus.
Because of that factor, the NCAA ruled that schools will be able to individually decide how much financial aid it will provide to those athletes. Many have fully committed to providing those athletes with their original scholarships, while a school like Wisconsin completely cut them loose.
The more ominous and significant financial hit could come if the upcoming football season is affected — or even canceled. Football is the straw that stirs the drink in college athletics. The revenue generated from football — and, to a lesser extent, men’s basketball — allows every other sport to exist.
Virtually every other program, no matter the sport or school, loses money. The prospect of having no football puts them all in jeopardy.
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