University of Minnesota Alumni Association


From the President

A Difficult Situation

The challenges posed by COVID-19 have been complex and difficult across our University family, including for Gopher Athletics. The pandemic has amplified the financial and Title IX concerns Athletics have confronted over recent years.

In May, Athletics Director Mark Coyle presented potential revenue-loss scenarios ranging from $10 million to $75 million to the University’s Board of Regents as a result of COVID-19. Our national and Big Ten peers are facing similar financial challenges.

While the Big Ten’s announcement to restart the 2020 football season was welcome, the uncertain FY2021 revenue tied to the season, additional COVID-related expenses, and the steep reduction in game day revenues only accentuated fiscal challenges.

To help address the challenges facing Athletics and to ensure continued Title IX compliance with respect to the department’s participation numbers, the Board of Regents took action in October to eliminate the men’s gymnastics, tennis, and indoor track programs at the end of their competitive seasons.

These decisions were not considered lightly.

Due to recent shifts in the University’s undergraduate gender demographics, steps were needed to ensure compliance with our commitment to provide gender-equitable participation opportunities for our students consistent with federal law requirements. We also considered community impact, state and national interest, competitiveness, and sponsorship at the conference and NCAA level.

These actions also follow important costsaving measures undertaken by Athletics since March to address their budget shortfall—including the shared effort of the department’s staff.

We recognize the decision to eliminate three sports is devastating to our incredible student-athletes, coaches, and staff who make invaluable contributions to campus life. We examined every potential path forward, and we heard significant feedback from a variety of constituencies, including our important alumni voice.

We understand and deeply respect that this is a painful decision for everyone involved. It was a decision based on very challenging facts, during very challenging times, which required us to not only fulfill our obligation to manage the institution in a way that is financially sound, but also to help us achieve an even better tomorrow.

I would like to recognize Mark Coyle and his team for being ahead on this issue, and bringing it to our attention in advance, so that we could collaboratively work together to address it and ensure everyone impacted received our full support throughout this process.

As we set to pivot towards a new year, this moment provides an important opportunity for reflection. In October we lost the great Minnesota sportswriter Sid Hartman at the age of 100. I had the pleasure of getting to know Sid and the opportunity to participate in his sports talk show over the last year. He will be missed by so many, and I will always look back with gratitude on those interactions.

I also reflect on the creativity, energy, voice, and leadership of our incredible alumni over the last year. From ringing in 2020 with a Gopher football win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl, to donating over 25,000 protective masks in support of our health care providers and patients, to supporting social justice efforts across our communities, to helping create meaningful commencements for our spring graduates—all of this, and so much more, makes us #UMNProud.

I am proud to walk with each of you during this journey, and I wish you all a healthy and safe start to 2021.

With warmest regards,

Joan Gabel

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