News broke on Friday afternoon that Bowling Green State University in Ohio would be eliminating its baseball program, effective immediately due to a projected $29 million shortfall for the next fiscal year.
The news comes not so long after it was reported that the University of Cincinnati made a similar decision as they announced that they would be eliminating its men’s soccer program in order to help out with their budget shortfall.
It really brings me no pleasure to say this, but this is the sad reality that faces collegiate athletics right now thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For mid-majors outside of the big power-five conferences, their athletic budgets greatly depend on student fees. Just look at BGSU as an example here. More than half of their athletic budget comes from student fees.
It should come to no surprise that enrollment declines in the fall are going to become a very common reality on college campuses throughout the country due to the worldwide pandemic currently hitting society.
For athletic departments like the ones in Bowling Green State and Cincinnati, decisions like this are almost certainly going to be more common as the “group of five” conferences will not have resources at their disposal like that seen at larger schools.
And yes, the Alabama’s and Clemson’s of the world are also going to be taking some big hits due to the damage COVID-19 has inflicted.
While it’s true that their budgets don’t depend on student fees as much, they could see major losses in football revenue if games are played without fans (which is something that could happen).
All in all, smaller athletic programs, like baseball or soccer, that don’t make a ton of money for schools are going to have to be sacrificed. Those are the athletes who will be forced to look elsewhere to continue their careers.
Over a month ago commissioners from the “group of five” conferences asked NCAA President Mark Emmert for temporary relief such as lowering the number of sports required to be a Division I school from the required 16.
The dark future facing athletics is open in plain sight and leaders from across mid-majors see the writing on the wall.
Now, I don’t believe it would be responsible to unknowingly speculate which colleges in Kentucky could be faced with decisions like that. But it also doesn’t take too much research for someone to find that out for themself.
Take for example nearby Western Kentucky University which is currently eyeing $27 million in budget cuts for the next fiscal year which is eerily similar to the type of shortfall BGSU has seen.
Hopefully, WKU can find a way to not cut any of its programs, but I would not at all be surprised if that ended up being the case. In fact, no one needs to be surprised.
The reality is that we have been hit with an incredibly serious and financially devastating pandemic and higher education is going to suffer even more than it has been suffering in recent years.
Hard decisions will be made which are going to really hurt young student athletes and fans of these programs. Arguments will be had about what should or shouldn’t be done, and no one is really going to be right.
COVID-19 has caused a trickle-down effect into nearly every aspect of life and collegiate sports are no exception.
We have all been keeping senior high school athletes in our thoughts, but we don’t need to leave out athletes at the next level whose careers could be ending over the next few weeks as budget decisions are made.
I don’t enjoy writing columns like this. But I do believe it’s important to prepare for the worst before it comes. And the worst may be on the horizon for collegiate sports.