Maryland Could Consider Cutting Sports

The Baltimore Sun published a report from the University of Maryland athletic department which includes a scenario of eliminating sports as an option to keep the athletic department financially stable over the next five years. The report, titled “Transforming Maryland Athletics: 2009-14,” offered three significant options for the University to keep the athletic program stable: cut expenses and find new revenue, scale back selected sports, or eliminate an undefined number of teams. The report was done largely to make sure the athletic department’s long-range goals match those of the university. University of Maryland athletics director Deborah Yow oversaw the report along with input from athletics staff, coaches, students, alumni, donors and others.

“This is a matter of due diligence, to look at every possible way to generate revenue or cut expenses, especially at a time of recession,” said Yow. “There is no imminent decision to cut or tier sports, but we are going to study it.”

The athletic department recently reduced the roughly $55 million budget by an additional $1.3 million because of a shortfall in football season-ticket sales and anticipated declines in men’s basketball season-ticket sales, “which we attribute largely to the economy,” Yow said.  Maryland has 27 teams – 15 for women and 12 for men. The average number of teams at the Atlantic Coast Conference’s eight public universities is 22. According to the paper, the report emphasized University of Maryland’s commitment to Title IX, the federal gender equity law. All of the University of Maryland’s teams except men’s basketball and football operate at a deficit. The report says the school, which has added competitive cheerleading and women’s water polo in recent years, has balanced its athletic department budgets each year since 1994,

Yow, who has been steadfast about preserving sports, said of cutting teams: “You can’t have a five-year strategic plan and ignore that as a possibility.” Eliminating teams is usually a last resort at universities and typically follows a series of belt-tightening measures. “A given sport is the last thing to go,” said Rodney Fort, a professor of sport management at the University of Michigan.

The report also highlights establishing subscription Web video sites for some games and coaches’ shows; improving the academic performance of men’s basketball players and the graduation rates of athletes admitted under special circumstances; and new efforts to promote sportsmanship, including incentives to discourage students from directing boorish chants at Maryland opponents during games.