This is an excerpt from Introduction to Sport Law With Case Studies in Sport Law-3rd Edition by John O. Spengler,Paul M. Anderson,Daniel P. Connaughton & Thomas A. Baker III.
The issue of cutting sports reached its peak in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 250 teams were cut from November 2019 through March 2021, and in 84% of the situations, the university involved noted budget shortfalls as the reason for the cut, often brought on by the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some estimates show that universities could lose upward of $183 million because of the financial strain caused by the pandemic (Whitford, 2021). As schools continue to face the financial stress brought on by the pandemic, it is not surprising that athletic teams will continue to be cut.
Several schools cut teams at the height of the pandemic only to reinstate them several months later. For example, in July 2020 Stanford University cut 11 teams, representing roughly one-third of the school’s 36 sponsored athletic programs. These programs accounted for 240 athletes and have produced 20 national titles and 27 Olympic medals. Following months of uproar from students, alums, and others, the university reinstated the teams in May 2021 (Rubin, 2021). On the other hand, the University of Iowa cut men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s tennis, and reinstated the women’s swimming and diving team only after being sued by the women (Ohlensehlen v. Univ. of Iowa, 2020). The university argued that it made the cuts because it was facing $100 million in lost revenue and an overall budget deficit of $75 million, but the court reiterated that such financial hardship is not a defense to a Title IX violation.