The University at Buffalo is set to cut four varsity sports by the end of the 2017 academic year, per a release issued by the university this morning.
UB will cut men’s soccer, men’s swimming and diving, women’s rowing and baseball, reducing the university’s sponsored varsity sports from 20 to 16, the NCAA minimum to achieve Division 1 standing. Baseball is currently in season for Buffalo, with a game vs. cross-town rival Canisius scheduled for Wednesday.
“This has been a very difficult decision made only with extensive deliberation,” UB President Satish K. Tripathi said in a press release. “The unfortunate reality is that we no longer have the resources to support 20 competitive Division I athletic teams. I know that this is a difficult day for our student-athletes, our coaches, and the entire athletics program and university. We will work very hard to provide our student-athletes and coaches who are impacted by this decision with the support they need.”
The decision was made after the school commissioned a report to look into cost-cutting measurements and took into consideration program costs, athletic facilities, Title IX, geographic location and a comparison of peer institutions in the Mid-American Conference.
UB will honor any scholarships or national letters of intent it has rewarded in those sports if athletes still want to attend the university, but also gives student-athletes the opportunity to “pursue other intercollegiate athletic opportunities” with no restrictions.
UB will sponsor football, softball, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field after the spring 2017 season.
To maintain Title IX standards, UB must fulfill one of three requirements: 1) equity in participation opportunities, 2) scholarships based proportionally on the number of male/female athletes and 3) comparable treatment of women’s and men’s sports in terms of infrastructure, publicity and quality of resources, amongst other things.
To maintain Mid-American Conference status, the school is required to sponsor football, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s basketball as part of membership standards.
Those factors could certainly go into Buffalo’s choices in terms of programs to cut. That being said, it’s amongst one of the more surprising decisions the school could have made.
Per a FAQ page, UB expects to save $2 million as part of the cuts, with about 120 student-athletes to be directly affected as a result of the move. The university sees this as a move that will help the school “better [align] UB athletics with its MAC peers and positions the athletics department for greater success going forward.”
The move could put the MAC in a bad place; the decision to cut men’s soccer has left the conference with five members, which puts the MAC below the threshold for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That places Akron, one of the top men’s programs in the nation, in direct danger unless the MAC finds additional institutions to join.
Buffalo’s men’s soccer team had made the MAC Championship game in back-to-back seasons and looked to continue that progress next season.
Buffalo baseball joins Akron baseball as recent victims to cost-cutting measurements as part of listed financial woes. The move will reduce the MAC to a ten-member conference with uneven divisions, as Akron and UB are (or were) both housed in the MAC East. Moves could have to be made in the offseason to address that situation.
The university is currently conducting a press conference and we will provide updates as that happens.