Oct 14, 2020 - Sports

The impact of college sports cuts on student athletes

a varsity letter. Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over 200 college sports programs have been cut since the pandemic began wreaking havoc on athletic budgets, altering the lives of thousands of student athletes and coaches.

The state of play: The cuts mostly comprise non-revenue sports like tennis, golf, cross country and swimming.

  • Olympic competition over-indexes in non-revenue sports, so that pipeline will be impacted. Take Stanford, which cut 11 programs four years after breaking a school record with 27 medals in Rio.
  • "This is where we were planning on spending the next 20 years," said coach Brett Harker, whose Furman baseball program was cut this year. "Do you get out of baseball to live in the city you love ... or do you uproot everything, try to invest somewhere else?"

Between the lines: While schools claim these are money-saving decisions, critics view the reluctance to touch where the real fat sits — in the football budget — as proof that the NCAA model no longer provides broad-based opportunities.

The other side: While these cuts are bleak, they could also reinvigorate the of-forgotten club sports ecosystem, as many varsity programs will transition to club rather than disappear altogether.

  • "I feel for the athletes whose programs were just cut, but I think they will find that club frees up time to get passionate about other things," former Stanford rugby player Johnny McCormick told the New York Times.
  • Fewer varsity teams means fewer athletic scholarships, but it could also mean fewer parents spending thousands of dollars pursuing them — a trend that has transformed youth sports and priced many low-income families out.

The bottom line: The fallout of these cuts is varied and far-reaching, but dig just beneath the surface and you'll find there's some reason for optimism, too.

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