College sports on the chopping block

Nick Erickson, Staff Writer

It’s the start of a new school year. The campus is bright with new faces, green shrubbery and grass. Everyone here is looking forward to specific things that will soon enough be upon us.

Some anticipate the tailgating sessions in the Alerus Center’s parking lot. A good amount of us will be enticed by the start of the men’s hockey games. Also, I think everyone is hoping to see our men’s basketball team make their trip to the March Madness tournament a regular thing.

But there is definitely something missing this year. In the past two fiscal years, UND has cut five sports programs. Men’s baseball and men’s golf were cut in the spring of  2016 so we’ve had a year to adjust to their absence. However, it’s still something people hated to see go. In the last fiscal year, UND athletics had to make their biggest chop on the highly avoided road of budget cuts after it was said that the university would have to make another round of cuts to drop its budget by over $1.3 million.

Then came the outrage. In January, UND chose to cut its men’s and women’s swimming and diving, as well as the women’s hockey program. Yes, it may sound like the Band-Aid is being ripped off again by mentioning it, however we need to see the numbers in line with other budget cuts that have happened around the region in our neighboring state of Minnesota to see just how devastating these cuts were.

St. Cloud State University, one of our hockey rivals, recently made cuts that impacted six sports. University officials sat down a large body of student athletes to deliver the crushing news that left the male and female athletes with many wrenching emotions that even brought some to tears to find their teams were being blacklisted.

The cuts included eliminations to men’s and women’s tennis, women’s Nordic skiing, men’s cross country and indoor/outdoor track and field, as well as taking away a few roster spots for players on their football team.

Now compared to our five sports this seems quite close in relevance to what was sacrificed right? That’s actually incorrect. Comparing our programs that were cut just last spring, which was a total of $1.3 million, to SCSU’s cuts for this fiscal year cutting two more teams than what UND cut but only having a total savings of $250,000.

MSU Mankato also saw cuts back in 2010-2011 which lead to the men’s swimming and tennis and women’s bowling team to be left in the past. These three sports ended up only saving the university $190,000.

Another budget cut that occurred was one of UND’s former hockey rivals in the WCHA, even though the amount was nowhere near the equivalence of UND’s savings. Bemidji State University’s athletic director chose to eliminate the men’s indoor and outdoor track and field programs to help with their massive budget crisis in 2011. They ended up cushioning their budget by only $30,000.

The public outcry called for eliminations to come from somewhere else. Many good points were made. Some pointed out that the men’s and women’s track teams actually made costs of traveling cheaper since they traveled together to meets. They also pointed out that instead of eliminating an entire men’s team to comply with Title IX regulations, that they could cut quite a few different roster spots from other sports down to 40 male athletes left to cut from their respective sports. They then suggested cutting 40 players from the football team which just isn’t logical considering they had a 97-man roster in 2011. Granted, it wouldn’t end the program but the football program would suffer incredibly. It just goes to show how heartbroken people were.

A big issue with all of these cuts and what is determined expendable has to do with the bill passed in 1972, the Title IX bill. Which essentially is set up to ensure gender equality among state funded schools. A big reason why UND had to make certain cuts was also due to the upcoming move to the Summit League conference from the Big Sky Conference. Cuts needed to be made in order to be able to provide some financial assistance in granting more scholarships to women’s sports that would be making the move up to the Summit League in the near future.

Nick Erickson is a staff writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]