A few people stepped up eagerly to speak. Others were cajoled. Enough folks connected with Maryland took the time to talk to take the President’s Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics’ open forum through 90 minutes of a scheduled two-hour discussion on Monday at the school’s student union.
One reasonably common theme arose from the modest crowd throughout: A desire not to cut any of Maryland’s 27 sports.
The commission, established in July to assess the Maryland athletic department’s dire financial situation, is tasked with making recommendations to president Wallace Loh on how to increase revenues and cut expenditures. The commission’s report is due Nov. 15.
It was hardly a leap to connect cutting expenditures with the possibility of cutting teams. Maryland fields the third-most varsity programs in the (for now) 12-school Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terrapins also have a larger tableau of athletic offerings than Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which were invited to join the ACC on Sunday.
Still, speakers at the forum – which functioned as a listening and information-gathering session for the commission rather than a debate – opposed shrinking the number of sports.
“It took us 25 years to establish women’s sports and to get them started and now we’ve gotten there where we really have them where they belong,” said Nelson Gibson, who attended Maryland in the 1960s and remains a supporter of the school’s athletic programs. “They’re equal to the men’s sports as far as participation and funding and all that. Now when the cuts come down when the economy is the way it is, there should be no cuts of any teams. That would be our primary goal.”
It was a public event that commission co-chair Barry Gossett stressed was available to create as much transparency in the process as possible. The group has quietly done work over the last two months, meeting with coaches and athletic department employees while also listening to donors.
Gossett said the commission heard similar concerns already, but also received other feedback.
“It is, but we’ve also received sentiment that we need to put our money in the right places. …,” Gossett said after the forum. “We are just putting everything together. We don’t make the decision. We just make the recommendations. I’m sure there will be a lot of different recommendations for Dr. Loh to consider about he cuts expenses and how he raises revenues for the sustainability [of the department].”
One particularly interested onlooker was wrestling coach Kerry McCoy, who was curious to hear what other opinions on campus are about the subject. He also said he is determined not to let any looming uncertainty about the athletic department affect a program that has won three of the last four ACC titles.
“The No. 1 you talk about is control the things you can control and things that you can’t control, don’t worry about it,” McCoy said. “This is a perfect example. There’s a lot of smart people making decisions here, a lot of perspective on what’s best for the overall department and what’s best for the university.
“I’m going to take comfort in the fact that they know what they’re doing and we’re going to control what we can control. We’re going to continue to win wrestling matches and we’re going out there and get our kids to do well academically, and anything outside of that we can’t control.”