In what has been already an amazing amount of men's track & field programs eliminated alone in the Mid-American Conference over the past two years, you can now add Ball State University to the list.
According to Ball State senior Brian Runyon, the Cardinals will eliminate men's indoor and outdoor track, men's volleyball, men's swimming, women's field hockey and women's gymnastics after the 2003-04 seasons. More information to the story is below:
*** just wanted to point out that this latest Ball State situation is very unique because Bubba Cunningham, the Athletic Director, did not want this information to leak out until the official announcement was to be made after the July 18th Board of Trustees meeting. What does this mean? The coaches are fed up with the current situation and they felt they had to so something to let people know so this information could be let out. This is NOT a Title IX issue at all. Remember, they are also cutting two women's sports: field hockey and gymnastics.
Unfortunately, these types of threads usually degenerate into arguments over Title IX and weather or not college football makes money. What's lost in these disputes is that the real losers are the student athletes who's teams are going away. They have my sympathy.
Bubba Cunningham, the Athletic Director,
>did not want this information to leak out until
>the official announcement was to be made after
>the July 18th Board of Trustees meeting.
This is NOT a Title IX issue
>at all. Remember, they are also cutting two
>women's sports: field hockey and gymnastics.
Yeah -- probably the reason they didn't want it to leak until after the Jul. 18 board meeting was that the brain trust was planning to use that meeting to come up with some way to spin the cuts in such a way that they can blame Title IX.
I will throw in my 2 cents worth (and I never hesitate anyway). Football in the MAC, or any other non-BCS Division 1-A conference, does not make money. Typically at a "mid-major" school such as Ball State, the biggest money loser is football, followed by hockey (if offered), men's basketball, and baseball. Remember, fewer than 50 football programs across the nation make a profit.
The conference reshuffling that is about to take place proves that every athletic decision made at a D-1 school revolves around football. Of the 63 BCS-conference schools, 60 offer men's track. Recent cuts to men's programs have not come at the BCS schools, or at the D-II or D-III schools, but almost exclusively at I-A programs that are not in the 6 major conferences. Only 31 of those 46 schools have track programs (which drops to 29 out of 44 if BYU and Utah jump to the Pac-10, as the rumor mill has it). In other words, it's at the schools that can't afford to play big-time football but try to anyway.
Two years ago, Bowling Green blamed its athletic cuts on budgeting and Title IX. Track, the most expensive team that got the axe, accounted for less than 2% of BGSU's athletic budget. The huge deficits the AD blamed on minor sports were run up in his two years in charge of athletics; he's put it in the hole another $1 million each of the last two years. The overruns come not from tuition's effect on scholarships or from having too many sports (where he put the blame) but from increased spending on football and hockey. The university spent nearly $2 million on upgrades to the hockety arena and footbal stadium the fall before they cut the teams. Oh, and the DOE certified BGSU as in compliance with Title IX before any cuts were made.
In our land of the free press, you'd think someone would have looked into this and written an expose. But in a small town, the university controls the media. I just hope that someone brings some heat to those jerks in Muncie
I figured this thread would turn out this way. I'm probably going to get bashed for this, but here goes. It seems impossible to discuss track program cuts without someone turning into the Waterboy's mother: "Foosball is the devil!" (if you didn't see the movie, you don't get that). AD's have to set priorities. At the D-1A non-BCS level, those football programs may or may not break even. However, if you were the AD, would you want to answer to the alumni and big $$$ donors, and even the school president and regents for cutting back on football? Which do you cut? A track program that brings zero revenue, attendance and practically zero publicity to the University...or a football program that brings 30,000 (or more) people to campus 5 times a year, getting mentions on sportscasts around the nation every Saturday? I love track and field, but you have to understand the situation. Asking AD's to cut spending on football to save track just ain't gonna happen.
Rational is right on his analysis.... to a point. What could/should be done to improve the situation not only for other sports but also for football itself (as practiced nationwide) would be a cutback in what football spends that does virtually nothing to improve the product, and if everybody is cutting, then they all stay relatively the same anyway.
Imagine what it costs to hotel the entire football team the night before a game... at home! Training tables, spring football, etc., etc. If nobody did it, it would all come out in the wash.
And let's talk about scholarships. Pro football makes do with half the people. As I recall, last time they cut scholarships what it did was make sure that Alabama, Nebraska, et al could no longer have 25 guys sitting on the bench who could be starting at any other Div. I school. The result? More parity, with more programs being competitive. Surely another similar cut would produce similar results, and a Ball State would have a better football team while spending even less money.
I'm not asking them to cut football. I'm asking them to tell the truth (or the damn press to force it out of them). And at these mid-major schools, it's not "may or may not make money". They lose money, and a lot of it. BGSU loses $1 million a year to football, and they're typical. If neither Marshall nor Fresno State can cut a profit, it's simply impossible. And they're not just staying even with their football spending, it's ballooning.
Besides BYU, which may soon move to the Pac-10, the only schools that will field men's track next year, spent more than a week in the football Top 25 in the last five years, and aren't in the big 6 conferences are TCU and Louisville (and Louisville doesn't have indoor). Marshall, Toledo, Bowling Green, Fresno State, Tulane -- do you see the pattern?
Years ago the MAC had scholarship limits for every sport that were lower than the NCAA limit. The rationale was that competitive balance within the conference was healthier for all involved than trying to play with the big boys. When that went out the window, small sports got the axe. Let me paint the picture: all but a few MAC schools now have the minimum number of men's sports for conference and 1-A membership. Baseball is required for MAC schools; the other three sports each has are things like cross country and golf, with almost no budget or scholarships.
The big boys now have the BCS and tightened requirements for Division 1-A membership. The differences between the conferences are institutional and growing. I'm not trying to say that football is the devil. I'm trying to point out that the crisis of survival facing collegiate track is within a certain group, and what the ADs there say is most certainly not what's really going on.
After looking at this more deeply, there are even more questions:
Ball State's EADA shows an annual loss of less than $163,000. Why is it necessary to cut SIX teams to level the books? Heck, Michigan loses more money than that every year (you can look it up if you don't believe me).
Oh, and football posted a loss of almost $1.7 million on the year. Just for comparison's sake.
Yeah, and I hear that the biology departments at most schools don't break even, either. Do you think we should cut them, too? College athletics, with a few exceptions, is not a profitable venture. However, it is a worthwhile one. Just because we as readers of this board have a track background rather than a football one does not make our sport any more worthy of survival than any other. (I always sense a great deal of jealousy when some folks talk about how much money is spent on football...)
Once again, put yourself in the athletic director's shoes. You have to cut the budget. You can cut back on spending for football, thus pissing off some alumni, donors, sponsors, possibly the president and regents, or you can cut (insert non-revenue sport here) and piss off a very select few that follow that sport (as no one else will notice).
I wish no track program would ever get cut (or any other program for that matter), but here in the real world, such things will happen.
>put yourself in the athletic director's
>shoes. You have to cut the budget.
In most cases they don't actually have to. They are literally moving funds from minor sports into major ones. I looked into this for quite some time, and at Bowling Green it was quite blatant.
You can cut
>back on spending for football, thus pissing off
>some alumni, donors, sponsors, possibly the
>president and regents, or you can cut (insert
>non-revenue sport here) and piss off a very
>select few that follow that sport (as no one else
Um, at BG everyone noticed. Football attendance dropped even thought they were in a championship hunt. The AD privately said he wished he'd never cut any sport. The university even had a drop in enrollment that was not expected in their statistical projections. Their fund-raising was compromised. It is a major story in most college towns, even if the press doesn't do diddly. Remember, a typical track program has more than a thousand alumni.
>Only 31 of those 46 schools have track programs
>(which drops to 29 out of 44 if BYU and Utah
>jump to the Pac-10, as the rumor mill has it).>>
If ever I've heard a bad rumor, that sounds like it. There was talk a few years back about Texas and Colorado (before the Big 12 came into fruition), but I've never heard this one. The free-thinking left coast schools tieing in with the reactionary Utahans? Makes no sense to me.
This situation highlights the mystifying mentality of many college AD's and administrators. If profitability is the criterion for fielding an athletic team then ALL programs except football and basketball ought to be cut at all but a very few schools. Here on the west coast, Ball State is probably best known for their Men's Volleyball team. In that sport they have been very competitive for years, now they cut not only track but a relatively cheap V-ball program that has put them in the national spotlight. For what? To save a football team that loses even more money? Inexplicable.
-- Many of the athletes were interviewed by a local news station out of Indianapolis about the situation and voiced their opinion.
-- The team will start up a website about the proposed cuts and truth in why it's being done (will be on-line soon).
-- According to one of the athletes, only 2 of the 13 trustees voted to eliminate the sports mentioned to the AD. Another official told me this "decision" was made several months ago, not this week as the local media and administration will tell you.
In other words, as someone I think mentioned earlier, what people are most upset about is the way the administration is handling this. If it was up to them, as one current Ball State athlete told me, they would not tell anyone and simply sweep it under the rug. However, their plan of keeping it secret until their proposed announcement on July 18th failed.
Rational, Here is an idea. Maybe instead of cutting sports, AD's can generate more money. The collegiate AD postion has evolved into one of a glorified fundraiser. However, many AD's, being ex-coaches, have no experience with this and want no part of it. Many see the position of AD as a post-coaching gravy job where they stand around smoking cigars with the present coaches. When times get fiscally tough, they don't know what to do and cut. The same can be said in title IX issues. When the proper balance is not there, an option is to ADD women's sports/activities. It does not have to be men's sports cut. Reality is the majority of the AD jobs are going to unqualified individuals who have some how 'earned' the position as a result of their coaching career. Ross Perot's quote in regards to the presidency fits here: "What it takes to obtain this position has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what it takes to be successful in the position."
>Rational, Here is an idea. Maybe instead of
>cutting sports, AD's can generate more money.
>The collegiate AD postion has evolved into one
>of a glorified fundraiser. However, many AD's,
>being ex-coaches, have no experience with this
>and want no part of it. Many see the position
>of AD as a post-coaching gravy job where they
>stand around smoking cigars with the present
>coaches. When times get fiscally tough, they
>don't know what to do and cut. The same can be
>said in title IX issues. When the proper
>balance is not there, an option is to ADD
>women's sports/activities. It does not have to
>be men's sports cut. Reality is the majority of
>the AD jobs are going to unqualified individuals
>who have some how 'earned' the position as a
>result of their coaching career. Ross Perot's
>quote in regards to the presidency fits here:
>"What it takes to obtain this position has
>s ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what it takes to
>be successful in the position."
I agree with many of your points, and I have personally known some AD's who were in fact grossly unqualified for the job of chief athletic fundraiser (the subtitle to athletic director). However, one must acknowledge that fundraising is exceedingly tough, even for those trained in it. The options include sending your football team on the road 4 or 5 times a year to get spanked by the top 20 powerhouses for big paydays, but this choice has a downside because the losing that results gets coaches and AD's fired. They can sell more tickets, but if the team is losing, that's hard to do. They can seek private donations, but in this post 9-11 world and weak economy, this avenue is limited. With a recession upon us, corporate sponsorships are harder to come by. My point is that while there are some very unqualified AD's in this world, the solution of "just raise more money" is easier said than done.
The problem of track programs being cut is an economic one, obviously, but I think it underscores the need for collegiate track & field to reinvent itself (or try to go back to what it once was).
Ball State is/was never going to challenge for a national championship. Nor is any MAC school. But they schedule their seasons just like some SEC school with national title hopes. Boring invitationals. One big relay meet or two. Conference.
Now I know that such schools, with limited scholarship numbers, can't field a dual team the likes of UCLA in the '70's, but I feel they can develop some sort of meaningful competition that will get alumni, fans and students at least somewhat interested in the program.
Such conferences should look at the situation and say, "Heck, forget trying to qualify a few athletes for the NCAA meet. Let's develop a schedule that generates some excitement for our team and local area. Something that will have the track team in the papers every week."
Is this the answer to all problems for mid-level track teams? Of course not, but it's a start, IMHO.
>The problem of track programs being cut is an
>economic one, obviously, but I think it
>underscores the need for collegiate track & field
>to reinvent itself (or try to go back to what it
Ball State is/was never going to
>challenge for a national championship. Nor is any
>MAC school. But they schedule their seasons just
>like some SEC school with national title hopes.
>Boring invitationals. One big relay meet or two.
Now I know that such schools, with
>limited scholarship numbers, can't field a dual
>team the likes of UCLA in the '70's, but I feel
>they can develop some sort of meaningful
>competition that will get alumni, fans and
>students at least somewhat interested in the
Such conferences should look at the
>situation and say, "Heck, forget trying to
>qualify a few athletes for the NCAA meet. Let's
>develop a schedule that generates some excitement
>for our team and local area. Something that will
>have the track team in the papers every
Is this the answer to all problems for
>mid-level track teams? Of course not, but it's a
Great points, DL. However, just for the record, changing college track to that radical a degree will be tough. Just look at all the whining some coaches have done about adding regionals. Imagine the wailing and crying if you tried to rework the entire collegiate season.
Yes, fundraising is a tough proposition. However, that's why they call it a job. The AD position is no longer the 1970's job of patting a few backs and showing up at several contests. Maybe basing a portion of the salary on fundraising could motivate a few (maybe I said). It can be done. My real point was that few see it that way. They look for the easy way out which is cutting back and continuing to poor into football with hopes that the MAC will catch on and the ESPN contract is around the corner. The idea of mid-majors reinventing themselves and redirecting goals is an excellent idea. One stumbling block you may have overlooked is the agenda of most coaches. Many see nearly every position as the next stepping stone to the Stanford, Florida, or Tennessee job. Shooting for quad meets and conference finishes will not pad their resume with misleading individual invitational champs & numbers of NCAA qualifiers. Most coaches at mid-majors are secure enough with themselves and their positions to go for that idea.