A sports business professor says colleges cutting non-revenue sports teams are using COVID-19 as an excuse to rid themselves of programs they didn't want anyway and may be hurting themselves by turning away potential tuition-paying students.
B. David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports business at Ohio University and the interim president of the Drake Group – an organization of academics who believe sports have become too dominant in American college sports — criticized the schools that have cut or announced reductions.
"I think dropping sports is basically a knee-jerk reaction and many of the schools are using the pandemic as an excuse for something they already wanted to do," Ridpath told USA Today.
Ridpath, who coached wrestling at Ohio University and was the athletics administrator at Weber State in Utah, said there are "viable" reasons for eliminating a sports program "but it should be the last one and based on many different things."
Fifteen programs reportedly have been dropped or have been scheduled for closure at Division I schools — the top tier of NCAA competition — since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, USA Today reported. Twelve of the 15 are men's programs, often dropped, schools say, to comply with federal Title IX regulations requiring gender equity.
Some of the eliminated programs include men's soccer at the University of Cincinnati, baseball at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and Furman in South Carolina, and wrestling at Old Dominion in Virginia.
More than 499,000 athletes participated in intercollegiate sports across the three divisions of NCAA competition in 2018-2019, according to the latest data. Of those not playing men's football and men's basketball, the revenue generating sports, many pay tuition, Ridpath said.
He offered baseball as an example, saying 11.7 scholarships are spread over 35 roster slots.
"Dropping these sports, you're likely losing bodies, and that counts against your overall enrollment," Ridpath said. "Enrollment is going down nationwide and (colleges that eliminate programs) are not really looking at the whole picture here."
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