Missouri State athletics will see changes due to the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, but cutting a sport doesn’t appear to be one of them at this time.
MSU President Clif Smart told the News-Leader on Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate having to eliminate any sports due to a shortfall in the athletics budget caused in part by the global health crisis.
Smart wrote in a blog posted to MSU’s website on Tuesday that athletics will be responsible for managing its unbudgeted revenue losses and expense increases. That will include more than $600,000 in reduced payments due to the cancellation of the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA basketball tournaments.
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The university has covered some athletics shortfalls in the past, in addition to the budget support to the athletics program provided by millions of dollars in student fees.
In an interview on Tuesday, Smart reiterated that university funds won’t cover the unbudgeted athletics shortfall while also going into detail about what can be done to shore up the athletics budget.
“Everything is on the table to evaluate — length of season, travel — both how we travel and how far we travel — how you schedule, how many tournaments we attend,” Smart said. “Personnel evaluations are on the table.”
One thing the university doesn’t want to do is eliminate a sport just a few years after doing so during a prior budget shortfall.
Missouri State cut field hockey and replaced it with beach volleyball in 2017. The move was made after the university instructed the athletics department to cut $750,000 in expenses in response to budget recommendations by then-Gov. Eric Greitens for Fiscal Year 2018.
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The idea of having to cut sports again was presented on Tuesday after the University of Cincinnati announced it would discontinue its men’s soccer program in response to the coronavirus pandemic and a review of the long-term budget forecast for the athletics department.
Smart said on Tuesday that he doesn’t think Missouri State will go that route.
“I do not anticipate eliminating any sport,” Smart said. “That is not on the table. We did that three years ago. We have the sports we want to have, but we’ve got to figure out how we save $600,000 to $1 million within essentially a $17 million budget. That is a pretty good lift.”
Missouri State also isn’t going to withhold another year of eligibility from spring season athletes in order to save money.
Last month, the NCAA approved adding a year of eligibility to spring student-athletes but left the decision of whether to sponsor that added season up to member universities.
An MSU athletics spokesperson confirmed to the News-Leader on Wednesday that the school will honor the scholarships for spring-season athletes who wish to return to Missouri State to compete in 2021.
The move differs from, for example, the University of Wisconsin, which recently announced it won’t allow spring senior student-athletes to return next year. Wisconsin is projecting at least a $4 million shortfall caused by COVID-19.
When making final decisions on what will ultimately be the changes within Missouri State athletics, Smart said they will be made in conversations with MSU Athletics Director Kyle Moats and Chief Financial Officer Stephen Foucart.
“We’d work on a plan that we agreed to and then at some point, it would become part of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget,” Smart said. “And then ultimately the (Board of Governors) would approve it.”
News-Leader reporter Claudette Riley and the USA Today Network contributed to this report.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at email@example.com or join the conversation on Twitter where his handle is @WyattWheeler_NL. You can also sign up for his free “Bears Beat” newsletter by subscribing on News-Leader.com.