Athletic-department cuts have forced Bowling Green State University to drop its baseball program, saving the school a half-million dollars annually. The move will eliminate two full-time coaches and a part-time coach. There are also 34 student-athletes affected by the move.
The University of Denver is no stranger to moves like that as the athletic department has had to make difficult decisions to drop teams in the past – specifically baseball and football.
DU dropped baseball in 1997. With few Division I baseball programs in the Rocky Mountain region, poor spring weather conditions, and high and rising costs, DU took a pass on what was once one of DU’s premier sports. The highlight for the program took place in 1973 when DU reached the finals of the NCAA district baseball tourney, where they were ousted by national power Arizona State. But the overall cost of operation was just too high to justify.
Two months ago, the NCAA Division I Council was asked to waive the minimum number of sports required to be a Division I member but the request was denied. DI schools must continue field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender. Denver currently offers 7 men’s teams, 8 women’s teams, and 1 co-ed team (skiing).
At some colleges, athletic teams are on the chopping block in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cincinnati announced plans to drop men’s soccer. Akron announced plans to drop men’s cross-country and golf and women’s tennis at the end of the academic year. Old Dominion is dumping wrestling. Today, Furman announced that they are dropping baseball and men’s lacrosse. And expect more colleges and universities to explore cuts to teams, especially if they are above the NCAA required minimums.
In the summit league, North Dakota State has not ruled out dropping sports programs as part of the COVID-19 impact. “We’ll take a hard look at everything,” said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen. South Dakota State is said to be going through the same evaluation. Their decision(s) could have more far-reaching impacts on the league’s minimum number of sports teams to qualify for an auto-bid to NCAA playoffs.
Could DU drop athletic teams? It’s certainly possible – but unlikely. Large roster sports like lacrosse, swimming & diving and soccer have relatively low scholarship levels but bring a number of paying non-scholarship athletes to the University. While hockey generates revenue, women’s gymnastics has become a dynamic draw at DU. Tennis and golf, long-time powers for DU, bring top-notch academics to campus and the savings would be relatively small. And skiing? Twenty-four national championships and a powerful ‘brand’ make this sport untouchable. Women’s volleyball has become an NCAA staple as well and plays a critical Title IX offset for men’s hockey.
Sure, Denver will be tightening their belt on administrative overhead and costly travel but do not expect dramatic on-field changes.
Photo: Head Coach Jack Rose led DU for 36 years, leaving the University as the school’s all-time winningest coach, compiling 785 wins during his storied career. Courtesy: Denver Athletics