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COLUMBIA — The coronavirus pandemic has provided another stark contrast between the haves and have-nots in the world of college athletics.
Thanks to ticket sales, media and television rights, donations, NCAA and conference disbursements and revenue from coaching clinics and camps, Power 5 athletic departments like the University of Missouri's will likely be able to weather the lost revenue from the cancellation of March Madness without eliminating varsity programs.
"Depending on how deep and long it is, we'll have to make adjustments," Sterk said in a conference call Thursday. "But as of right now, you know, no, no sports are on the block, if you will. I think you're gonna be seeing that across the country over the next weeks and months of sports, but as of right now we don't have that."
Other schools aren't so lucky.
The University of Akron, also facing steep budget cuts to its academic departments, has already announced it is cutting men's cross country and golf and women's tennis. Old Dominion, which along with Missouri offered wrestling in the Mid-American Conference, cut the program in April, the University of Cincinnati cut men's soccer, and Florida International University will no longer offer men's indoor track. Bowling Green, another MAC member, cut its baseball team Friday afternoon.
The members of those teams will have their college careers end if they can't find somewhere to transfer.
More cuts are certainly coming, and that's just at the Division-I level. Division-II, D-III and community and junior colleges operate on progressively fewer dollars as the level descends.
And if there is no college football season this fall, programs like Missouri's will likely have to make the kind of tough decision Sterk has said they aren't currently considering. Playing football in the spring has been proposed as an option, but most are treating it as a last resort at this point.
"The fall is the focus because from me personally I think, you know, we need to focus on the fall," Sterk said. "Who knows what the spring brings, and I'd rather deal with the present and try to try to have a season in the fall, if things are in the right status, if you will, as far as with the health officials. I think the health officials are going to drive that. If it gets to that point (playing football in the spring) then, yeah, then we would look at it but I think that's far down the road."
The NCAA rejected a proposal in late April that asked for a reduction in the minimum number of sponsored sports — 16 — required of D-I programs.
In a statement, the Division-I Council chairwoman Grace Calhoun, also the athletic director at Penn, said, "We will prioritize student-athlete well-being and opportunities balanced with reducing costs associated with administering college sports, but a blanket waiver of sport sponsorship requirements is not in keeping with our values and will not be considered."
Several college athletic programs have already said they will no longer put their 100-man football rosters in hotel rooms before home games, whenever games resume, as a cost-saving measure.
In the coming years, athletic departments will likely start prioritizing regional opponents and tournaments in non-conference play to save money on travel, which may be part of why the Missouri men's basketball team has reportedly agreed to home-and-home games with Missouri State and Wichita State.
The Tigers are scheduled to play a football game at BYU this season, and immediate changes in football schedules will likely be less common because of TV deals and the underlying financials of college football, which usually bring in the most revenue.
"Actually, I called Jim Livengood, former AD at Washington State and Arizona, and he had a plan about six, eight years ago about regionalizing Olympic sports in a different way, and I've asked him to dig it out of his files," Sterk said. "Unfortunately, he just gone through some surgery, so he said 'It'll take me a week or two,' but we've encouraged our coaches to look at regionalizing their schedules, and I forget which sport, maybe soccer, was supposed to go out to California, and we're not going to do that.
"We're going to look at what we can do and in the interest of saving expenses, we're going to look at doing that. If it can be broader, you know, I think everyone's talking about that as far as what we can do, but is there — right now there's no national movement to do that."
Missouri's women's soccer team played an exhibition game at Stanford to open its 2019 season, opened regular season against Colorado State in Fort Collins, and played a non-conference game at Ohio State, but all other games were either at Walton Stadium or a conference game. The men's golf team likely won't be returning to Hawaii any time soon after playing there this season, and the softball team's run at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., may also come to an end next season.
Missouri sponsors 20 sports, including men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, all of which compete in the Southeastern Conference apart from the wrestling program.