Q Why these specific programs?
A In what was termed “An Open Letter to the University of Minnesota Athletics Community” and signed by University President Joan Gabel and Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle, the crux of the decision was spelled out pretty clearly: It was primarily about money and gender-equity, with other considerations mixed in.
“In addition to the financial challenges and gender-equity commitments, we also considered community impact, local and national interest, competitiveness, and sport sponsorship at the Big Ten and NCAA Division I level when making this decision,” the open letter reads.
Notably on the gender-equity front, given that all the programs cut are men’s sports, this was included in a question and answer section at the bottom of the letter: The cuts “will result in female and male participation numbers that closely align with our undergraduate campus enrollment percentages, which is approximately 54% female and 46% male.”
Q How much money will this save the U, and why is that important?
A The Gophers say this will save them $2 million in fiscal year 2022 year and $2.7 million subsequent years when all scholarship athletes have graduated.
Combined with other savings from salary reductions and other measures, it moves the Gophers in the direction of what will be needed to cover what they say could be as much as a $75 million revenue shortfall this season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
A couple million dollars might seem like a drop in the bucket with such a large shortfall looming, but it’s also likely that schools across the country will be paying off losses from this year for many years to come and will look for future savings to bridge that gap.
Q When do the cuts take effect and what happens to athletes whose programs are cut?
A If COVID-19 allows for competition in 2020-21 school year, athletes in those sports will be allowed to play. But that will be the final season. The U says it will honor all scholarships if athletes remain at the school until they graduate and will help them transfer if they want to leave.
Q Can these programs be saved in some way?
A A significant fundraising campaign in the early 2000s saved three Gophers sports in danger of being cut — men’s and women’s golf as well as men’s gymnastics — by raising nearly $3 million. But that doesn’t seem to be an option this time around based on what the open letter states:
“As this decision is a combination of financial sustainability and Title IX commitment, we do not believe there is a realistic fundraising goal we could set that would address all the challenges that led to this decision.”
Q Why now?
A The short answer: money and recruiting. It stands to reason that more cuts will need to be made to the Gophers athletic department budget in the wake of COVID-19 but, if these programs already have been targeted as cost-saving measures, announcing the decision now will halt the recruiting of future athletes in those sports.
Q What does this mean for the future of men’s college gymnastics?
A Thursday’s news was a major blow to men’s college gymnastics, which has been decimated by cuts to the point that just 13 programs exist.
If the Gophers — who finished as the NCAA runners-up as recently as 2018 — are eliminated, that brings the total to 12 and subtracts one of the top programs from a shrinking pool.