Dear Board of Regents,
I am a University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field captain, All American, and fifth-year senior. My father ran on the team in the 1980s, my grandpa ran on the team in the 1960s, and now my younger brother and I have both chosen to pursue our athletic dreams at this university. I will speak solely to the proposal to cut the men's track and field program because of this.
On September 10th, 2020 Mark Coyle informed the University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field team that they would no longer be a sponsored sport following the conclusion of the academic year. He also informed the athletes that Men's Tennis and Men's Gymnastics would be cut. Not only was this done in an all athletes meeting, Coyle has done nothing to reach out to the members of the teams involved in these cuts. He claimed these cuts were due to 1) financial issues due to COVID-19, and 2) rules involving Title IX policy. This paper will outline the discrepancies in the logic of Mr. Coyle.
In the board of regents meeting today, 09/11/2020, Mark Coyle provided numbers illustrating the revenue generated, or lost, by the programs in the athletic department. Regent David McMillan argued that it is not up to philanthropy to save a program such as the track team, and instead we need a sustainable way for the department to make more money. This greatly misses the overarching problem that led us to this point. It isn't about raising money for a program to fund a non revenue sport such as track and field. There is a clear and distinct pattern of irresponsible spending by those in power at the University of Minnesota Athletic Department. These irresponsible actions are on the onus of Mark Coyle. $13 million dollars was spent on a state of the art track and field facility, but $1-2 million dollars can't be found in the budget to fund half of the athletes that would utilize this facility. Essentially, facilities were prioritized over a team itself. $166 million dollars was irresponsibly spent towards the new Athletes Village facility without the funds being completely present in the first place. These examples show how Mark Coyle has put the non-revenue sports on the back burner when approving and overseeing projects such as these. Every business owner sets money aside for
emergencies, they establish a "rainy day fund." In no way was this done by Mark Coyle and the U of M Athletic Department. Their emergency plan was to cut the livelihood and dreams of 58 student-athletes. Obviously, COVID-19 has drastically changed the financial reality of all athletic departments, but irresponsible financial management over the course of years has put the
University of Minnesota athletic department in this situation, not COVID-19.
Another reason for cutting track was due to a Title IX compliance issue, according to Mark Coyle. The NCAA states that in order for a school to be Title IX compliant, they must "Provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students" ("Title IX Frequently
Asked," 2014). The wording in this law leaves some wiggle room for athletic departments. By including "substantially proportionate" one can see that the proportion of student-athletes doesn't need to exactly match that of the general student body. Using statistics provided by the Equity in Athletics Survey in 2019, if the track and field teams were excluded from this cut
proposed by Mark Coyle, the student-athlete proportion of male to female would be 49% to 51%. The ratio of the general student population according to 2019 data is 46% male to 54% female ("University of Minnesota: Student Enrollment," n.d.). I believe that these numbers fall in compliance with the language used in the Title IX rule, "substantially proportional." Either way,
this is far too big of an ambiguity to warrant the cutting of the men's track and field program.
Even hypothetically, if these ratios were deemed outside of the "legal limits", Title IX law states that universities must be in accordance with only ONE of the following:
1. Provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment of full-time undergraduate students;
2. Demonstrate a history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex;
3. Fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex; and,
The first policy was previously addressed in this letter and illustrated compliance. The second policy explains that the university must "demonstrate a history and continuing practice of program expansion for the underrepresented sex." The University of Minnesota has clearly fulfilled this stipulation. The addition of women's rowing in the early 2000s, and partial additions of the cheer and dance teams vividly illustrate compliance with this rule. The third policy claims that a university must "Fully and effectively accommodate the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex." This is clearly a pattern shown by the University of Minnesota Athletic Department. A brand new women's basketball practice facility was finished in 2018. A state of the art track and field facility was built for the women's (and men's) track and field teams. The women's track and field team also received a state of the art locker room finished in 2020.
There are plenty of more examples to pick from, but clearly this institution is "accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex." Clearly, the University of Minnesota is in compliance with Title IX policy. This discredits Coyle's claim that the track and field programs were cut due to noncompliance with Title IX.
Finally, I would like to discuss the issue of diversity in the University of Minnesota Athletic Department. Cutting the track and field team vastly cuts the diversity of the athletic department. The men's team had athletes from 8 different countries. The University of Minnesota claims to "Actively promote an inclusive and diverse community" ("Diversity and Inclusion," n.d.). By cutting one of the most diverse programs in the athletic department, not to
mention in the Big Ten, they are violating their own diversity policy.
If you choose to cut the men's track and field team, you would be letting off irresponsible and greedy spending by the athletic department without any accountability. You would be letting off an athletic department that preaches diversity, but whose actions illustrate otherwise. This has become a continuing trend around NCAA athletics. If you vote to cut these programs, you fail the state of Minnesota, and the entire fan base by falling into the selfish pit of pushing non-revenue, and olympic sports to the side. If these proposals are approved you set in motion a path to kill track and field at the NCAA level. Other prestigious programs will follow, and the most viewed olympic sport will be put into serious difficulty in the NCAA.
To conclude, Mark Coyle stated, "We have been one of the most resourceful athletic departments in the NCAA." This is a bogus claim, backed by absolutely no fact, and if you look at the problem at its core, it is due to irresponsible leadership and financial management by Mark Coyle himself. Don't let this set the precedent and let him off the hook, while permanently
damaging the sport of track and field in Minnesota and beyond. I, and thousands of others, urge you to vote against Mark Coyle's proposal to cut the Men's Track and Field Teams at the University of Minnesota.