Financial pressures and uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have changed admissions dynamics in many ways, including through college sports. Many varsity and club teams are being eliminated, leaving more spots available for nonrecruited athletes.
A growing list of universities are canceling competitive sports for Fall 2020, and many more are eliminating or putting on hold selected club-level and varsity programs.
High on the list are “country-club sports” such as golf, tennis, rowing, fencing, sailing, and squash that are relatively expensive to operate, don’t attract a large number of spectators, and whose participants don’t generally represent a broad cross-section of the general population.
Dartmouth College is eliminating its golf program. Schools ranging from highly selective private institutions like Stanford University to public institutions, including the University of Connecticut, are scrapping varsity and club teams.
In July 2020, Stanford announced that it would eliminate 11 teams, including co-ed and women’s sailing, men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, squash, and synchronized swimming. The university had been supporting 36 varsity teams—double the average for Division I schools.
Most football and men’s basketball programs, which tend to be the biggest revenue drivers for Division I college athletics thanks to TV broadcast deals and ticket sales, aren’t being cut. However, Fall 2020 / Winter 2021 schedules are shifting due to public health concerns.
Many universities will transfer those spots from athletic recruiting to the general admissions pool, which will translate into freed-up places in its first-year class.