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,