Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Axe finally falls on MSU programs

Back in 2004, when Minnesota State was trying to figure out how to overcome gender-equity violations, there was talk of eliminating programs.

A couple years later, when the North Central Conference dissolved and the debate was to move to Division I or take a step back to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, there was talk of eliminating programs.

Finally, budget cuts over the last year and expected reductions for the next two years appear to have forced Minnesota State's hand. On Tuesday, athletic director Kevin Buisman announced that he had made a proposal to the higher-ups to eliminate men's and women's tennis, men's swimming and women's bowling as part of a 5 to 7 percent reduction in the athletic department's budget.

Minnesota State offers 23 sports, which is more than any Northern Sun school and more than most Division II programs. In these challenging economic times, that's too many, if you want to be successful across the board.

The hard part is deciding which sports will remain and which will go. Why men's swimming over men's golf? Why women's bowling and not women's swimming?

There are no easy answers. The university will likely have to cut some personnel and scholarship budgets as well, and those won't be simple decisions.

The final decisions on the athletic budget won't come until March, and folks at Minnesota State hope the economic outlook will be better and these worst-case scenarios won't come true.

But you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in state government that sees any meaningful recovery in the next six months. Instead, future cuts could still be necessary.

It might be true that we've witnessed the peak of Mnnesota State sports over the last two years. Several programs were competitive nationally, including the women's basketball team that won the national championship in 2009.

Budget cuts are certainly going to come at a price, and those schools who make the right decisions will be better positioned to have success in the future.

Will these cuts allow the remaining sports to maintain their competitive success? That's not an easy one to answer, either.

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