MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota's Board of Regents voted 7-5 on Friday in favor of a resolution eliminating three men's athletics programs: gymnastics, tennis, and indoor track and field.
The sports will be eliminated after completing their 2020-21 seasons.
Men's outdoor track and field was also under consideration for elimination, but that program's status will be re-evaluated in the spring.
In a presentation to the regents, Athletic Director Mark Coyle cited a need for cost savings amid a forecasted budget shortfall. The athletics department was already forecasting a $4.5 million budget shortfall before the COVID-19 pandemic, while an additional revenue disruption of up to $75 million was later forecast due to the pandemic.
Coyle said the U of M also faces additional uncertainty surrounding revenue from the reduced college football season, and the added expenses of COVID-19 testing and protocols.
Coyle's presentation noted that fundraising was an "unrealistic option" for making up the department's shortfall. The addition of women's sports to meet Title IX requirements was also not considered feasible due to the budget challenges.
"While these decisions are necessary for the long-term sustainability of Gopher Athletics and the opportunities it will offer student-athletes in the years to come, I feel deeply for those who are affected by these changes today," Board Chair Ken Powell said in a statement. "As we reviewed the department’s financial challenges over the last few years, it was clear that significant change was needed, with consideration of our Title IX and other public responsibilities. I know Mark Coyle and his leadership team will move forward from today with compassion for those directly affected and caution as they chart out a successful path forward for Gopher Athletics through the challenges they presently face."
"This is an incredibly difficult decision, particularly because of its effects on outstanding students, coaches and staff. We remain here to support them through these changes," University President Joan Gabel said in a statement. "But this is one of the most challenging moments in the history of our University community by any measure, and it demands unprecedented considerations at all levels of our University, including Gopher Athletics. These changes are painful, but are necessary so the department can build a sustainable plan for the future."
Under the resolution approved by the board, scholarships for all student athletes in the eliminated programs will be honored until the students have earned their undergraduate degrees. Coyle said the university would also fully support any student athletes who wish to transfer to another school.