As part of a budget restructuring plan, Eastern Michigan University will cut four of its sports teams. Softball, men's swimming and diving, women's tennis, and wrestling are the teams that will be eliminated this year. 89.1 WEMU's Jorge Avellan covered the announcement this morning at Eastern's Convocation Center.
"Twenty-five years ago, I went through this. They cut my sport, I sat in their seats, so I know exactly how it feels."
EMU's Director of Athletics Scott Wetherbee wiped tears as he spoke with reporters during a press conference. Budget issues also caused his baseball team in college to be cut. With the change, EMU will reduce its athletics expenses by $2.4 million.
Wetherbee says the football program was not included in the cuts because it generates over $5 million in revenue for the university without donations and costs $6.9 million to operate.
“The Toledo football game, I have the numbers, was worth $2.3 million to our university and our brand. What they do when they go to the Bahamas Bowl covers that. They aren’t a black hole, they are helping us. They help our basketball program, they help our rowing program, they help all the others,” said Wetherbee.
The American Association of University Professors chapter at EMU applauds Eastern for taking steps in reducing the athletics budget, but they don't agree with this particular decision. The group has criticized Eastern for cutting jobs on campus while continuing to fund the football program.
Judy Kullberg is the president of the chapter.
“The university should move to a different league. Either the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) or the Horizon League and that kind of move would result in long-term reduction of spending on athletics,” said Kullberg.
Right now, the athletics budget is about $27 million, which includes student athlete scholarships. Today’s budget cut announcement will reduce that budget by about 10 percent.
With the change, EMU, which previously led the Mid-American Conference (MAC) with 21 sports, will now have 17 sports (seven men’s sports and 10 women’s sports).
EMU considered program costs and athletics facilities before selecting the four teams that would be cut.
Wetherbee added that 83 student athletes will be affected by the change. If they decide to stay at Eastern, they will still be allowed to use their sports scholarships until they graduate.
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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org