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ASU cites economics in reducing number of varsity sports

May 13, 2008

In response to economic realities experienced over a long period of time, Arizona State University announced May 13 the discontinuation of three varsity sports programs, effective immediately. The sport programs affected are men's swimming, men's tennis and wrestling. ASU President Michael Crow and Vice President for University Athletics Lisa Love made the announcement. With the budget cuts the University is facing, Intercollegiate Athletics cannot expect the University to make up the difference.

This move reduces the total number of varsity teams sponsored by ASU to 20 from 22. Currently, men’s swimming and men’s diving, compete as part of a combined team and this move will not affect the diving portion of the the team.

ASU will continue to fund football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, women's tennis, women's swimming and diving, men's diving, women's volleyball, women's gymnastics and women's water polo.

"Our primary concern for the immediate future is the student-athletes and coaches that are affected," says Love.

The student-athletes in the discontinued sports who decide to transfer to another institution will be provided with full assistance from ASU regarding the transfer process. The student-athletes who chose to remain at ASU will receive the full benefits of their scholarship awards through their senior year.

"With a dedicated effort to a successful 20-sport varsity program in mind," says Love, "these three sports were selected with the following criteria: financial impact, potential competitive success, conference/regional support and gender equity. Our revenue trajectory has been positive, however, our ongoing financial challenges have been well documented by the media. The decision to discontinue sport programs is a last resort, yet necessary."

"These moves are extremely painful," says Love. "We have arrived at the realization that funding a 20 sport program is a better fit for our financial profile and will serve to secure and strengthen our future. It is our responsibility to operate a fiscally prudent varsity athletics program. The costs of doing business are escalating daily and the costs of maintaining excellence even more so."

At 20 varsity sports, ASU is in line with other major institutions around the country. In the Pacific-10 Conference, schools that compare favorably with ASU are UCLA and Washington 23 sports each, USC 21, Arizona 20, Oregon and Oregon State 18 each and Washington State 17. On a national scale, Florida, Georgia and Auburn sponsor 21 varsity sports, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and LSU 20 apiece, and Florida State 19.

"The profile of our operations budget and donation base does not lend itself to the sponsorship of 22 athletic teams," says Love. "While our revenue streams are achieving a positive trajectory they are simply not keeping pace with the current size and scope of the department.

"The decision to discontinue sports has been the most distressing and painful choice this administration has had to make. It is counter-intuitive to our administrative thinking. This decision impacts many people, both on and off our campus. The entire University, the Board of Regents, Sun Devil alumni and other universities will share in the loss of these sports and student-athletes and the contributions they have made to our University and to their sport.

"The action is in no way meant to diminish the dedication, effort or ability of these student-athletes, coaches and alumni. They have contributed greatly to Arizona State University athletics and to the vitality and history of the University," Love says.

As many as 70 student athletes will be affected by the elimination of these sports. Six full-time coaching positions will be eliminated. Head coaches will remain on contract through November, 2008.

The establishment of a 20-team varsity sport program will allow the department to realize a reduction in expenses that will total approximately of $1 million annually.

This is the second time in ASU's athletic history that programs have been eliminated. In 1993 ASU eliminated men's gymnastics, an NCAA-sponsored sport, and two club sports sponsored by ICA -- men's and women's and mixed archery and men's and women's and mixed badminton. Two sports have been added in recent program history, including women's varsity soccer in 1996 and women's water polo in 2002.