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Future of 8 UND sports up in the air as committee considers cuts

At least two sports are all but certain to be on the chopping block at UND and a list presented to the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee on Monday identified eight athletics programs that could be cut.

The eight sports are men's and women's tennis, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's golf, soccer and softball.

The committee asked the athletics department to run scenarios for what the department would look like if it had 16, 17 or 18 sports at medium or high funding levels. UND currently offers 20 sports.

Those scenarios, which include two, three or four programs being cut, will be presented to the committee at its Oct. 17 meeting.

At next week's meeting, scheduled for Oct. 11, the eight head coaches from the programs that could be cut will give a presentation to the committee and UND President Mark Kennedy.

"I think in the spirit of collaboration and being open and having good conversations that that's the right thing to do," Committee Chairwoman Kimberly Kenville said. "There's things you can't tell by a spreadsheet and you have to talk to people about it. So I think it's really important the coaches have the opportunity to talk to the committee and the president and really talk about their sport and talk about what their sport means."

The committee has been asked by Kennedy to examine the athletics department's financing, conference affiliation, the number of sports it sponsors and the number of athletes it has on campus. He asked for the group's recommendation by Nov. 1, though Kennedy has said he will make any final decisions himself.

The 18-member committee, a longstanding committee of the University Senate, is made up of UND faculty members, athletics department staff, UND alumni, students, a head coach and athletes.

Twelve sports — men's and women's hockey, men's and women's basketball, football, volleyball and men's and women's track and field and cross country — were identified at as programs UND is committed to sponsoring and appear to be safe from being cut.

That list of sports was given to Kenville in a previous meeting with Kennedy and Athletics Director Brian Faison, Kenville said. There was no discussion at Monday's IAC meeting about the eight sports listed as potentially being cut.

Baseball and men's golf were cut in April as part of state-mandated and university-wide budget reductions. Men's golf has since been reinstated for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years after the program raised money to keep the sport.

While eight sports are on the list, not all can be cut if UND stays in the Big Sky Conference. Men's and women's tennis and women's golf are all considered core sports by the conference and would need to remain being offered at UND if it wants to stay in the Big Sky Conference.

Also on Monday, the committee voted to provide Kennedy and the university a chance to explore alternative conference affiliation. The motion passed 14-1-1, with committee members Eric Murphy dissenting and Thomasine Heitkamp abstaining. Two committee members were absent from Monday's meeting.

In previous meetings, the committee has discussed the possibility of UND moving to the Summit League. A move to the Summit League would require UND to only sponsor seven sports — two of which must be men's and women's basketball — and then five additional core sports that UND can choose.

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

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