Clemson University will discontinue its men’s track & field and cross country program at the end of the year, a move that will likely save the school less than a quarter of what it pays head football coach Dabo Swinney annually.
The decision, announced Thursday, is due to the financial pressures associated with COVID-19, among other factors, according to the school. The athletic department has said it expects a revenue shortfall of about $25 million this school year. The move does not affect the women’s program.
“Clemson Athletics periodically reviews our sport sponsorships as a member of the ACC and NCAA, and makes changes based on several factors including, but not limited to: competitive balance, gender equity and Title IX compliance, financial positioning, impact on diversity among student-athletes and staff, and local and national interest and participation in the sport,” Athletic Director Dan Radakovich said in an open letter. “In this case, the timing and decision are not a result of any one factor, but a series of considerations.”
Though its football team has been perhaps the best in the country over the past decade, Clemson’s athletic budget pales in comparison to the NCAA’s most established programs. The Tigers spend about $132 million per year, significantly less than schools like Alabama ($185 million), Texas ($204 million) or Ohio State ($220 million).
That said, the cuts will have a minimal impact on the overall budget. Radakovich said the school will save about $2 million annually, a cost that will be reinvested into other athletic department initiatives. For reference, football coach Swinney was due to make more than $8.2 million this season.
Diving deeper into the numbers, the Clemson men’s track & field and cross-country program had operating expenses of $2.3 million in 2019, according to Sportico’s database. The program offers 12 scholarships that are distributed across 26 athletes, plus an additional 25 walk-ons, meaning that the tuition paid by runners in the program dramatically outweighs the cost of the scholarships awarded.
Clemson isn’t the first Power Five school to eliminate sports because of the pandemic, but it is among the highest profile athletically. In total, more than 85 programs across Division I have been cut, including some at Stanford, Iowa, Minnesota and UConn.
Clemson has offered men’s track and field since 1953. The program has won a combined 23 ACC championships and 16 individual NCAA titles, and produced 22 Olympians.
Clemson will honor the scholarships of every student impacted by the decision. It will do the same for coaches’ contracts.