COLLEGE PARK–The University of Maryland’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee proposed cutting eight teams to help solve the athletic department’s budget crisis, according to a report released Monday.
The proposal suggests cutting six total sports programs from the department, but university President Wallace Loh must approve the cuts before they are finalized.
The eight teams targeted include men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving, women’s water polo, men’s tennis, men’s cross-country, men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field, and acrobatics and tumbling. It would reduce the department from 27 to 19 teams.
Sergio Wyss, a Maryland tennis player, said his teammates were shocked to find out that the team was being cut due to the small number of players on the team.
“We’re the least expensive team, I would say. We only have four scholarships available for the whole team, and we’re only nine members on the team,” he said.
Seven of the teammates live together, making the team very close, and the news harder to take. “It was very devastating for us because we’re a family,” he said.
The proposal said there are several factors that caused the budget shortfall in the athletic department. One of the main problems was a big drop-off in fundraising in recent years. It also highlighted a decline in revenue by the men’s basketball and football teams, the revenue producing sports.
Another is Tyser Tower at Byrd Stadium, which was renovated in 2009, costing more than $50 million. The remodeling put luxury boxes onto the football field. More than two years later, about one third of those boxes remain unsold, leaving a huge hole for the Athletic Department, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Andy Magee, a tennis player, said he knew that the university was having budget issues, but didn’t think they were this bad.
“It’s pretty surprising to everyone. You don’t think of us as a school that has to cut sports. In my mind before I even got here, when you say Maryland, it’s a powerhouse athletic program,” he said.
Magee, who transferred to Maryland last winter after playing football for UCLA, said he’s not sure what the future holds for him.
The proposal projects that the department will lose more than $7 million this year. If the proposed changes are made, it anticipates turning a profit by 2015. It says the department will completely pay off its debt by 2019.
University President Wallace Loh released an online statement to the University community about the cuts. “As I read the report, my thoughts were on the student-athletes, and coaches of the teams…I understand the very real anguish this recommendation occasions,” he wrote.
Loh is expected to make his decision about whether to accept the recommendations from the committee by no later than the end of December. He also asked university groups to comment on the proposal.
Many of the student athletes say they are resigned to the fact that this is all out of their control. “There’s nothing, honestly, we can do. The authority, they’re going to make the decisions or course we can fight for it, but at the end of the day…I don’t think it’s going to make a big effect,” Wyss said.
In a letter to Maryland supporters, Athletic Director Kevin Anderson wrote, “While I would not wish these circumstances on anyone, I was brought to Maryland to lead and I am prepared to make the hard decisions necessary to make Maryland Athletics a model department with respect to academic, competitive and financial success and stability.”