University of North Dakota mulls cutting eight sports

At least two sports are all but certain to be on the chopping block at the University of North Dakota.

A list presented to the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee on Monday identified eight athletics programs that could be cut: soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s golf.

The committee asked the UND Athletics Department to run scenarios for what it would look like if it had 16, 17 or 18 sports at medium or high funding levels. This would reflect the elimination of two to four of the university’s existing sports programs.

Those scenarios will be presented to the committee at its Oct. 17 meeting.

At next week’s meeting, scheduled for Oct. 11, the eight head coaches from the programs that could be cut will give presentations to the committee and UND President Mark Kennedy.

“I think in the spirit of collaboration and being open and having good conversations, that’s the right thing to do,” said committee Chairwoman Kimberly Kenville. “There’s things you can’t tell by a spreadsheet, and you have to talk to people about it. So I think it’s really important the coaches have the opportunity to talk to the committee and the president.”

Kennedy has asked the committee to examine the athletics department’s financing, its conference affiliation, the number of sports it sponsors and the number of athletes it has on campus. He asked for the group’s recommendation by Nov. 1, though Kennedy has said he will make any final decisions himself.

The 18-member committee of the University Senate is made up of UND faculty members, athletics department staff, alumni, students, a head coach and athletes.

Twelve sports were previously identified as programs UND is committed to sponsoring. Football, men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s track and field and cross country all appear to be safe from the chopping block.

That list was given to Kenville in a previous meeting with Kennedy and Athletics Director Brian Faison, Kenville said. There was no discussion at Monday’s IAC meeting about the eight sports listed as potentially being cut.

Baseball and men’s golf were cut in April as part of state-mandated and university-wide budget reductions. Men’s golf was later reinstated for fiscal 2017 and 2018 after the program raised money to keep it operational.

While eight sports are on the list, not all can be cut if UND wants to maintain its standing in the Big Sky Conference. Men’s and women’s tennis and women’s golf are all considered core sports by the conference.

Also on Monday, the committee voted to provide Kennedy and the university a chance to explore alternative conference affiliation. The motion passed 14-1-1, with committee members Eric Murphy dissenting and Thomasine Heitkamp abstaining. Two committee members were absent from Monday’s meeting.

In previous meetings, the committee has discussed the possibility of UND moving to the Summit League. A move to that league would require the university to sponsor only seven sports: men’s and women’s basketball plus five additional core sports that UND can choose.- by Wade Rupard, The Bismarck Tribune