SI Daily Cover: It's a Scary Time For Olympic Sports at the College Level

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There is a popular theme on the Indiana University campus that's meant to bring all student-athletes together as one. It's used in literature, marketing and promotion practically every day of the year.

It's simple, really. "24 Sports, One Team.''

That mantra has been used around the country for years at other institutions as well, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put a serious dent on already-shaky athletic department budgets. It's gotten so bad that schools are slashing away at both men's and women's programs.

Sports Illustrated writers Pat Forde and Ross Dillinger covered the topic in great detail in Thursday's "SI Daily Cover'' story. To read it all, CLICK HERE

Indiana has budget concerns of its own, of course, but there has been no talk thus far about cutting or eliminating any sports. Indiana, as mentioned, has 24 varsity teams, 11 men's teams and 13 women's teams. That's not the case elsewhere. 

Here are some highlights from their story:

  • CUTS SO FAR: In Division I alone, 30 athletic teams have been eliminated in eight weeks. Four schools have cut at least three sports and a fifth, Brown, discontinued a whopping eight athletic programs. According to one site tracking the cuts, more than 80 programs have been eliminated across all collegiate levels.
  • BROKEN NCAA MODEL: The NCAA model that, because of riches in football and men’s basketball, has lost its original purpose of broad-based educational and athletic opportunities. “It’s clear that the D-I model of intercollegiate athletics has been broken,” says Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, “and COVID-19 is exposing it.”
  • REVENUE CRUNCH: Many programs are projecting at least a 20% reduction in revenue from various sources: cuts in state and federal funding; a decrease in institutional support; loss in ticket sales; and a drop in donations. The reductions extend to the university side. Even a giant like Ohio State is estimating a loss of $300 million in revenue, leading some to believe that a few D-I schools will do what several smaller universities have done—shut down completely. “We’re going to lose institutions,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick predicted last month.
  • GAP BETWEEN DIVISIONS: The gap has grown larger with the Power 5’s mega television deals and widened even more with the College Football Playoff. The CFP distributes $366 million to the Power 5 programs, including Notre Dame, while distributing $91 million to the Group of Five. According to 2018 figures, the richest Group of Five athletic program is UConn, ranking 52nd with a budget of $79.3M a year—and that program is losing $40 million a year and deliberating cutting sports this month. More than half of the Power 5 schools have a budget of at least $100 million.
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