GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota is cutting its varsity baseball and men’s golf programs as part of state-mandated and university-wide budget cuts.
Athletic director Brian Faison announced the decision at a 4 p.m. press conference Tuesday in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, one hour after informing the teams and their coaching staffs in Swanson Hall.
The cuts are expected to save the school roughly $720,000 annually. UND also says it anticipates $1.5 million in revenue increases in athletics to give the budget an impact of $2.4 million for the 2016-17 year.
Faison proposed several budgets to UND interim president Ed Schafer and vice president for finance and operations Alice Brekke that didn’t include any sports being cut.
“My task to Brian was that we need to make permanent reductions in operating costs,” Schafer said. “So, if you’re going to make permanent reductions, you can’t trim a team a few players or cut coach salaries and wait until the next budget. You have to make permanent changes. To get to that number that we were requiring, permanent changes were necessary. He was forced into doing something that he didn’t want to do and that’s trim teams.”
The final decision was made a week earlier, but UND held off on the announcement because of the men’s hockey team’s run to the Frozen Four.
Baseball’s budget is $605,000, according to Randy Magill, the chief financial officer for UND athletics. The men’s golf budget is $113,000.
The university needs to cut $9.5 million out of its budget for next year because of an order by Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s office after the state’s revenue forecast fell short. Faison said that the dollar number for athletic cuts -- $2.4 million -- wasn’t a hard number.
“It was a number that has been moving,” he said. “We went looked at a lot of different options. It was a pretty interesting exercise. At the end of the day, it was an absolute necessity that we were going to have to move in this direction.
“It’s unfortunate. A lot of programs on campus are going to deal with some issues. We’re part of the university.”
UND will drop from 21 to 19 sports starting next season. The minimum to maintain Division I status is 14.
To remain in the Big Sky Conference, UND is required to keep the league’s core sports -- football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track and field and women’s golf.
In addition to those sports, UND also sponsors men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, softball, women’s soccer, baseball and men’s golf.
Men’s golf competes in the Big Sky, though it's not a core sport. Baseball is not a Big Sky sport. UND competes in the Western Athletic Conference.
Faison said he talked to the commissioners of both leagues prior to Tuesday’s announcement.
“It’s very tough,” Faison said. “I’ve never had to do it. It’s very hard. But we also understand the bigger picture. I can’t emphasize enough that we are a part of the university and we have a role to play along with everybody else. We’re stepping up and doing what we need to do to keep this program moving forward. But there’s a personal side to this, obviously.”
Faison said the baseball and men’s golf athletes were “extremely disappointed” and “furious.”
The climate of Grand Forks isn’t kind to either sports.
Men’s golf, which has been at the school since 1929, hasn’t hosted a meet since September 2007, when the school’s athletics were at the Division II level.
This spring, men’s golf has played in six meets in Utah, Louisiana, Texas, California, North Carolina and Arkansas. It will compete in the Big Sky Championship in Nevada to close its season in two weeks.
The golf team, coached by Tim Swanson, has seven athletes on the roster. It has 1.5 scholarships.
The baseball team, which opened the season with back-to-back wins at nationally ranked Southern California, has played just three of 23 games at home this season. It has 14 more home games scheduled.
Baseball, coached by Jeff Dodson, played its first game in 1889 and had hiatuses from 1917-19 and 1921-55.
The baseball team’s roster has 29 players on the roster and five scholarships.
When asked whether cutting almost 30 full-paying tuition students hurts the overall university budget, Faison said: “There is an impact on the university, no question, but that was considered as well.”
Cost of attendance
UND started offering full cost of attendance scholarships -- stipends meant to cover expenses other than tuition, room and board and books -- for men’s and women’s hockey this season. It will introduce it for all sports next season at an estimated cost of $731,000.
Faison said that he did not consider taking away the cost of attendance scholarships to keep baseball and men’s golf.
“I think that decision was made for the right reasons,” Faison said of adding cost of attendance scholarships. “Certainly for our two hockey programs, football, basketball, volleyball. . . for those programs, it’s very important we have that in the pocket for the coaches to use for recruiting. I think that’s already been the case, quite frankly. So, that was not an issue. We just couldn’t match up with the new budget deficit.”
Schafer said that UND will “fully fund priority programs that we are keeping.”
Faison said that when UND announced the cost of attendance scholarships, he did not anticipate the mandated budget cuts.
“It wasn’t a factor when we accepted the challenge,” Faison said. “But it changed dramatically when the (budget) forecasts came through.”
Schafer said that, taking into account core Big Sky sports and Title IX, baseball and men’s golf “popped out” as sports that could be cut.
“If we didn’t have some of those requirements, we may have done something else,” Schafer said.
The rest of the university is expected to learn of budget cuts next week. Schaefer said he expects more discussion on athletics financing when the process is over.
“I think this will lead to a campus-wide discussion over the next few years about how many sports are we going to have, what is an appropriate number of sports and what’s an appropriate number of expenditures,” Schafer said. “We’re going to generate in our transition documents these kinds of discussions that the campus and the new president is going to have to have. We have to make sure we have the proper balance between athletics and academics at the school.”