Akron drops 3 sports as pandemic inflicts financial pain

Published 3:39 pm Thursday, May 14, 2020

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With its athletic budget being stretched and future funding uncertain, Akron dropped three sports on Thursday in a cost-cutting move necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ohio school announced it will discontinue men’s cross-country and golf and women’s tennis at the end of the academic year. Akron plans to reduce financial support to the athletic department by approximately 23% ($4.4 million), painful actions necessitated by the virus outbreak.

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“These decisions are very difficult but they are important and necessary at this time,” Akron athletic director Larry Williams said. “This action aligns us with our Mid-American Conference peers in the total number of sports and is part of the ongoing effort to redesign the University to ensure that UA continues to invest in high-demand, high-quality academic programs.

“This is a difficult day for all of us,” Williams continued. “We have dedicated student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff who have embraced being a Zip and make tremendous contributions to campus life in class, in competition and in our greater community.”

Akron’s decision will likely be followed by other schools trying to stay afloat financially during the pandemic.

The loss of the three sports at Akron affects 23 male and nine female student-athletes, three coaches, and one graduate assistant coach.

The school will now have 17 sports — seven men’s, 10 women’s — and the Zips will remain a member of the Mid-American Conference, which earlier this week announced it is eliminating postseason tournaments in eight sports, including baseball and softball.

In addition, the MAC is scaling back its postseason basketball tournaments because of the financial crisis triggered by the coronavirus.

The Southern Conference announced Thursday it will cut back on schools qualifying for several championships, trim its league baseball series from three games to two and hold virtual media days for football and basketball.

Williams said the timing of Akron’s announcement was made to allow student-athletes as much time as possible to find new schools if they want to continue in their sports.