Campus president Wallace D. Loh concurred with the recommendation of his intercollegiate athletics panel to cut eight sports from Maryland’s athletic offerings but is giving the affected teams until June 30 to raise eight years of total costs to guarantee lasting support for the programs.
The commission recommended last week that Maryland, which has exhausted its supply of reserve athletics funding, eliminate teams in acrobatics and tumbling (formerly competitive cheerleading); men’s and women’s swimming; men’s tennis; men’s cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field; and women’s water polo.
Based on the university’s timeframe, Loh had until the end of the year to make a decision on the fate of the eight teams. He is scheduled to speak at a 2 p.m. news conference on campus
“There was one request that many student-athletes and coaches made: That I not prolong unduly the announcement of my decision,” Loh wrote in his formal response. “They understood that I need to consult widely and deliberate carefully before deciding, but they also wanted as much time as possible to plan ahead.”
Loh accepted athletic director Kevin Anderson’s plan to offer a last chance to the affected programs. Anderson suggested allowing each team the opportunity to fundraise enough money to cover costs for eight years and establish an endowment by 2020 to perpetually fund the department.
“I am prepared to accept the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics with the caveat that we provide the teams and their constituencies the opportunity to fundraise to avoid reduction,” Anderson wrote. “While the fundraising goals will be lofty, the supporters must be given an opportunity to step up and deliver on behalf of the student athletes and programs.”
Based on Anderson’s projections, the swimming teams would need to raise a combined $11.56 million by the end of June to survive. The men’s track and women’s tumbling programs would need a combined $9.46 million, and the men’s tennis and women’s water polo teams would need $8.03 million. The teams are paired to remain compliant with Title IX.
Loh wrote that the M Club, the school’s letterwinners’ booster organization, has pledged $1 million toward the campaign and that all athletic scholarship commitments and affected coaches’ contracts will be honored.
Anderson wrote that two senior development staff members will be allocated to the effort full-time.
Maryland operates a 27-team athletic department, the third largest in the ACC behind only Boston College (31) and North Carolina (28). If the cuts take effect, its 19-team department would be larger than only Georgia Tech (17), Miami (18) and Wake Forest (18) in the ACC.
According to the commission, Maryland’s fundraising has shrunk almost 40 percent in just three years. The department’s total fundraising was nearly $15.3 million in fiscal year 2008 and barely $9.1 million in fiscal year 2011.
Future projections the commission studied were especially bleak. With 27 sports, the department’s anticipated total deficit would be nearly $8.7 million by 2013 and $17.2 million by 2017.
Loh accepted the commission’s other recommendations, which included improving collaboration between the university and the athletic department; reinvesting resources to provide more academic advisers, athletic trainers and sports medicine personnel into remaining teams; and create greater clarity in the athletic department’s financial reports.
—- Patrick Stevens