College Budget Cuts Imperil Squash Programs, And, Um, Possibly Football

It's a sign of the times that no one is discussing: Your favorite college sports may fall be the wayside in the coming three years due to the crappy economy. Ah! Not Badminton!

Take Stanford, for instance. Winners of the U.S. Sports Academy Directors' Cup for 14 years running — the award given to the best overall sports program in the country — the university is talking about slashing $5 million from its sports programs over the next three years. That could mean letting coaches go, and if things don't improve, even cutting loose some entire programs. From the San Jose Mercury:

Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby told a gathering of department employees that cutting sports and coaches would come only as a last resort, Cardinal squash coach Mark Talbott said. Bowlsby and the department's budget director discussed cutting travel squads and charging for parking at football games as possible solutions to budget shortfalls.

Welcome to the recession.


Other schools have taken more drastic measures. Last week, Division II Western Washington announced it was dropping football altogether. Even big-time sports schools aren't immune. Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel said athletics director Gene Smith talked with the staff in December about upcoming cuts.

"We have to tighten our belts just like everyone else's in the midst of tightening theirs," Tressel said at the American Football Coaches Association in Nashville, Tenn. San Jose State coach and new AFCA president Dick Tomey already is cutting back. "It's a matter of not staying all night and trying to get back late or staying at somebody's house when you recruit," Tomey said. "It's just trying to do a lot of the things a lot of us started out in coaching, trying to save money a lot of different ways."

If you see Dallas Lauderdale hitchhiking to Bloomington next week, please give him a lift.

Of course at some schools, the big sports could be doing a better job of helping the little ones. Take our Cardinal, for instance. Attendance at Stanford's newly-refurbished football stadium has dropped steadily since it was constructed in 2006; until, this past season, it dropped below that of its final year before the new place was built.


Ray Ratto, of CBS Sports and the San Francisco Chronicle:

In other words, the problem was more than the old stadium, and more than the bad results. The problem is systemic, is going to get worse as the economy goes through its gyrations, and, in time, staff reductions will become sport reductions.

You could be seeing a change in the landscape of college football before you know it, said Skip Sauer of The Sports Economist.

"College budget cuts in the near future are going to be enormous," he said. "A lot of us have this fanatsy that sports is different, but that's just false. Sports is not immune. Every day jobs are being eliminated in colleges, and you're going to see changes in the sports landscape very quickly.

"I don't see Stanford football going away anytime soon. But you never know what could happen; things change. Brown once played in the Rose Bowl, for heaven's sake."

Stanford Football Isn't Pulling Its Own Weight [San Francisco Chronicle]
Stanford Exploring How To Trim Athletics Budget Without Trimming Sports [San Jose Mercury]
NCAA, Colleges Looking To Cut Costs [Pittsburgh Live]