Jul 16, 2020 - Sports

Alumni fight to save college sports

Data: Mat Talk Online; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Mat Talk Online; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

242 collegiate athletic programs have been cut amid the pandemic, altering the careers and lives of thousands of student-athletes.

Yes, but: Some passionate alumni groups have opted to fight, banding together in hopes of saving the programs they helped build and continue to love.

  • Already saved: Alumni from Bowling Green State University raised $1.5 million for its baseball team, and donors gave Alabama-Huntsville $750,000 for its hockey team.
  • Work in progress: Dartmouth men's and women's Swimming & Diving — among the most recent programs cut — jumped into action immediately with fundraising efforts and a petition to save the team.

What they're saying: Hayley Winter ('18), former captain of the Dartmouth Women's Swimming & Diving team, tells Axios that "the posture of the administration is that this is an irrevocable decision," and that "no amount of fundraising could change their position."

  • But the program was cut once before, in 2002. Winter's predecessors fought and won then, and she's hopeful that the team can be saved a second time.
  • "We are committed to working with the administration to find a creative solution that meets their goals without cutting our programs," said Winter.
  • "The swim team had a tremendous impact on my Dartmouth experience. It instilled in me an unwavering work ethic and allowed me to tap into an expansive and wonderfully supportive alumni network."
  • "I'm genuinely devastated, especially for the existing members of the team. I'm hoping we can turn this around, if for anyone, just for them."

Zoom out:

  • Tennis hit hard: Nearly 20% of all cuts have been tennis programs. That's partly due to steep facility costs, but tennis also has the largest foreign participation of any sport (~60% of rosters are not native to the U.S). "There have been some ADs saying, 'Can't have a program of all international students,'" Tim Russell, CEO of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, told SI.
  • Topping the list: Stanford (11), Brown (8), Dartmouth (5), UConn (4) and East Carolina (4) represent 32 of the 61 shuttered D-I programs.
  • Gender breakdown: There's a near-even split of men's (121) and women's (118) programs, with three co-ed programs also being cut.
  • It's not just the NCAA: They lead the way with 176 cuts, but the NJCAA (38), NAIA (16), CCCAA (8) and NCCAA (4) are also affected.

Go deeper: Donors to eliminated sports find colleges still keep the money (Sportico)

Go deeper