The UND athletic department will continue to sponsor 20 sports, President Mark Kennedy confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday, UND's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee passed a recommendation to Kennedy that included retaining all 20 sports sponsored by the university.
The IAC advisory committee, given a Nov. 1 deadline, had been asked by Kennedy in August to examine the UND athletic department's finances, conference affiliation, the number of sports it sponsors and the number of athletes it has on campus.
The IAC’s recommendation included reviewing contracts with Raldph Engelstad Arena and the Alerus Center, as well as raising student fees and ticket prices.
Although Kennedy acknowledged many of those recommendations require third-party approvals, the president stressed the university would not be revisiting cuts if the recommendations don’t come to fruition.
“I have made it clear this is a once-in-a-Kennedy-tenure opportunity to review sports sponsorship,” Kennedy said. “It’s a closed conversation as far as I’m concerned.”
The committee also authorized up to $7.3 million in institutional support, although Kennedy warned against transitioning any funds that would create an adverse effect on academic priorities.
Kennedy said he has reached out to both the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Alerus Center leadership groups, although he said there are misconceptions about the REA’s financial standing.
“I understand that there’s a legend out there that there’s a pot of gold underneath center ice at the Ralph,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said high-profile sports such as men’s and women’s basketball and hockey, football and volleyball will be given priority.
“We will do everything possible to prudently support the programs that attract a wide audience,” Kennedy wrote in his statement. “But our ability to fund the maximum number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA in other programs will be dependent on considerations necessary to stay in compliance with Title IX and during this period of fiscal constraint will be dependent on additional outside resources.”
Kennedy’s statement also addressed concerns about raising ticket prices. The committee recommended a 25 percent increase across all sports.
“The advisability of increased ticket prices when attendance for most sports is below capacity needs to be examined,” Kennedy wrote, “especially with competition from televised coverage from which the university already receives revenues.”
UND’s support of its current 20 programs does not include baseball, which was cut last April.
UND men’s and women’s swimming coach Chris Maiello, whose programs were considered for cuts, said he was relieved to hear of Kennedy’s decision.
“We’re happy the committee recognized the value of sports and passed that to the president,” said Maiello, who gave a passionate speech to committee members during the process. “We’re more than happy and proud our president believes in the value of our athletic programs.”
Maiello said he was pleased with the way his athletes conducted themselves during a difficult period of uncertainty.
“Our training was very good and our results speak for themselves,” Maiello said. “There are big things to come for our team, not only this year but down the road when our athletes continue to develop and mature.”
UND athletic director Brian Faison said the next step is figuring out how to increase revenues.
“Obviously, we’re happy we’re going to be able to keep all sports programs,” Faison said. “Now, we have to make sure we have the funding and do it at a level that we need to in order to have sports competitive. We’ll go do it. We’ll do our best.”
Herald reporter Brad Elliott Schlossman contributed to this story.