By the Numbers: A Look at UND’s Athletics Cuts
Reasons why the University cut programs including women's hockey
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The University of North Dakota made headlines with its athletics department in march. Not the typical headlines surrounding the eight-time D-I National Champion hockey program, but with news of budget cuts.
Part of those cuts included dropping the women’s hockey team and the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams.
Based on state revenue shortfalls, UND was required to cut $1.3 million in next year’s budget.
That’s only the beginning though, according to Athletic Director Brian Faison.
When other future expenditures are taken into account, such as the university’s move to the Summit League, the number is much higher.
“You know, you’re talking about something in the neighborhood of about $2.6 or $2.9 million,” Faison said.
He is overseeing the move to the Summit League and says many of the costs associated with that transition will pay dividends.
“We’ve enjoyed our relationship with the Big Sky,” he continued. “It’s been great. But, the travel costs and the missed class time are massive in terms of that league situation for us, and this will certainly be a much better situation for us from that standpoint.”
According to the university’s financial report, UND spent more than $3.7 million on team travel expenses across all sports.
The most expensive sport was men’s hockey, followed by football, and then women’s hockey.
“I Think it’s difficult to understand that there’s a business element to this, and I understand that,” Faison said. “That’s not the part that’s promoted and marketed, and that’s tough. But, I think the human side of it is the most difficult. That’s the part that’s been I think the hardest for the president and for me in particular. You know, we just have to make the best of a situation that we can and keep pressing forward.”
The women’s hockey program is the third most expensive at North Dakota in terms of operating expenses ($2,132,160), behind men’s hockey and football, but ahead of men’s and women’s basketball.
Despite this, revenue from women’s hockey ticket sales ($25,306) was nearly six times lower than both men’s and women’s basketball ($148,567; $143,645).
The only program charging admission that brought in fewer dollars in 2016 was the volleyball team ($16,767), which cost half as much to maintain ($1,058,483).
Faison says other aspects were considered when determining which programs to cut, including historical prominence and success.
“You mean like the four conference championships we won this year in volleyball, football, basketball on the men’s and women’s side,” he said. “Yeah, that’s a very important part of this thing, and certainly winning a national championship last year for men’s hockey factored in as well, and that’s not unimportant. And, if women’s ice hockey would have had that success, that certainly would’ve added to it. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have made it a difficult decision, but the bottom line of the decision still came down to dollars and cents, unfortunately.”
Not only were people upset with the cuts in general, the university received a lot of backlash because of how the student-athletes found out, via Twitter.
“They should’ve heard it first from us. They didn’t. Somebody felt it was more important that they leak it,” Faison said. “At the end of the day, it’s just not a good thing, and no matter what you do or how you do it, they’re gonna be upset, they’re gonna be hurt, they’re gonna be angry, they’re gonna be frustrated, and rightly so. But, it didn’t help us go through our process of communication when someone decided to leak it well before we had the opportunity to visit with the team.”
And now, Faison is ready move on.
“The bottom line is we’ve had a great year,” he said. “This is probably competitively the best year the program has ever had, and we don’t want to lose sight of that, and it’s a great effort by our coaches and our student-athletes.”
Since the cuts were announced, a Title-IX complaint was filed, alleging UND is treating its female athletes unfairly. Faison dismissed this claim, saying the university went out of its way to make sure it was compliant in all three facets of the regulation.
It’s important to note: before slashing the programs, the Fighting Hawks hired outside council which deals specifically with Title-IX.
The NCAA is required to follow up with all Title-IX complaints.