Big Sports No Longer Big Man on Campus

February 19, 2021

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Buffalo, NY - Well before Stanford University announced it would cut 11 of its varsity sports programs and the MAAC canceled all fall match-ups, Canisius Professors Shawn O’Rourke, PhD and Karl Kozlowski, PhD, forecast that Covid-19 would result in a whole new ballgame for intercollegiate athletics. 

On the April 16 episode of their “K.O. Influencers” podcast, the professors of sport administration and kinesiology, respectively, asserted that coronavirus concerns, which resulted in the forfeiture of the spring athletic season, would be followed by financial shortfalls at higher education institutions everywhere.

O'Rourke

Canisius, for example, lost $450,000 in NCAA distributions because of the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament. This, coupled with losses in revenue from regular season conference and non-conference games, forced the college to cut nearly 20 percent (or $1.25 million) from its athletic budget in advance of the 2020-21 school year. 

“Canisius is a microcosm of what other schools are experiencing,” the duo explained.  “The bigger the school, the bigger the losses.”

Kozlowski

Since the financial fallout can’t easily be supplemented by increased enrollment numbers and retention, the ramifications “will likely lead to the elimination of non-revenue sports within athletic departments,” suggested O’Rourke.

Within just three months of O’Rourke’s presumption, 23 Division I schools had permanently eliminated 73 sports programs.  Those hit hardest included tennis, soccer, golf, baseball, lacrosse and wrestling. 

Although these sports don’t often get ESPN airtime, they – and all intercollegiate athletics – contribute to college life in tangible ways, concluded Kozlowski.

“College athletics is considered ‘the front porch’ of colleges and universities.”

Not only do athletic contests generate excitement and foster loyalty among students and alumni, he explained, they elevate recruitment and admissions. 

“Ultimately, the impact of cutting sports programs runs much deeper than the loss of ticket sales and concessions.”