Fresno State Cuts Some Athletic Programs Due To Pandemic Budget Shortfall

PRESS RELEASE: Fresno State Athletics announces program changes

FRESNO, Calif. – In response to ongoing financial challenges for Fresno State Athletics, whose revenues have been dramatically impacted this fiscal year by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fresno State announced today its decision to implement program reductions that will ensure long-term financial sustainability of its athletics program.

At the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year, the following sports teams will be discontinued: varsity lacrosse, men’s tennis and wrestling. Fresno State Athletics expects an overall annual budget savings of approximately $2.5 million, once all scholarships and other contractual obligations have been fulfilled. 

Following the reduction, Fresno State will continue to sponsor 18 NCAA Division I sports (six men’s sports and 12 women’s sports), serving and supporting approximately 430 student-athletes, while also ensuring the University’s ongoing commitment to gender equity. 

“Today’s decision is difficult for everyone and yet it is a necessary step to ensure the financial viability of our Athletics Department,” said President Joseph I. Castro. “We appreciate those who have supported these Bulldogs programs over the years, including coaches, current and former student-athletes, and their families.”

The expected operating deficit for Fresno State Athletics this fiscal year is approximately $6.6 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the sports teams’ competitive seasons and the related result of not being able to have fans in its venues. (For context, the department’s average annual operating deficit is approximately $2.2 million.)

“This is an incredibly difficult day for our entire Bulldog Family and one of the most challenging days of my career. Our mission is to holistically serve all of our student-athletes and prepare them for transformative success in competition and, more importantly, in the classroom and in life. So it is with great sadness and heavy hearts that this difficult decision was made,” said Director of Athletics Terry Tumey. 

Financial assistance for the affected student-athletes who wish to remain at Fresno State will be honored, and Fresno State Athletics will continue to provide support services to both the students who wish to remain at Fresno State to complete their degree or to the ones who wish to transfer to another institution. Per NCAA rules, student-athletes who choose to transfer will be immediately eligible at their next institution.

Contractual commitments to the coaches from the affected programs will be honored within the terms and conditions stated in their employment contracts.

“With these reductions, the future of our overall athletics endeavor becomes more fiscally solvent and in better alignment with our conference and competitive peers. In order for us to fulfill our mission of preparing the future leaders of our Valley community, responsible action had to be taken at this time despite how emotionally difficult it is for our students,” Tumey added. “Fresno State Athletics has always been known for our determination, resilience and character, and in this pivotal moment in our athletics history, we must come together now more than ever.”

Click to listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern:

FRESNO STATE: Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Why did you choose these particular sports for elimination?    

A: Fresno State Athletics is facing a large budget deficit and can no longer sustain funding 21 varsity sports teams.  The University has increased its support of Athletics during President Castro’s tenure. However, with the CSU system budget cuts, the University can no longer afford to support Athletics at the same level.  In addition, the Athletics Department has been drawing on the endowment to help offset scholarship costs. The department also faces a large loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on current and future revenue sources such as ticket sales and contractual agreements. 

During our evaluation, we considered all factors including cost of the sports, history and competitive success, Title IX proportionality, availability of state and regional recruiting and competition, and the number of teams that sponsor the sport nationally. 

Q: What is your rationale for eliminating multiple sports?

A: By eliminating three sports, Fresno State will reduce expenses by approximately $2.5 million once the reduction transition is completed. The University will continue to field 18 sports teams and serve approximately 430 student-athletes, which is more in line with our Mountain West Conference peers and other competitive peer institutions. 

Q: How many scholarships will be saved by cutting these sports?

A: In 2019-20, the three sports used a total of 23.7 scholarships. Full scholarship allocations for the three sports are: 4.5 in men’s tennis, 9.9 in wrestling and 12 in lacrosse.  In 2019-20, the cost to fund scholarships for the affected three sports was $800,000. 

Q: How many student-athletes are affected by these cuts? Will you honor the scholarships of all impacted student-athletes?

A: Seventy student-athletes are impacted by these reductions. Fresno State will continue to provide financial assistance to the impacted student-athletes. We will support our student-athletes in any way we can, including assisting them if they decide to transfer. We realize the timing of this decision is difficult, which is why we felt it was important to provide them this season of competition. If sports are not able to participate due to the pandemic, this will still be considered their final competition year here at Fresno State.  

Q: Will the affected students still be viewed as varsity athletes through graduation, giving them access to academic support, medical training, etc.?

A: We will support all the student-athletes who remain at Fresno State with academic support and other student services as needed.

Q: Will the coaches affected by this decision remain under contract?

A: We will honor the contracts for our coaches, within the terms and conditions stated in their employment contracts. 

Q: What was the history of these three sports at Fresno State? When was the last time that Fresno State cut a sport? 

A: The men’s tennis program began competing at Fresno State as an NCAA Division I program in 1971. The lacrosse program began competing in the spring of 2009. The wrestling program first began competing at Fresno State in 1961-62 until it was discontinued in 2006, and reinstated in 2016. 

The last time Fresno State reduced sports was in 2006 when wrestling was cut and men’s cross country was reinstated. The wrestling program was later reinstated in 2016, and began competition in 2017-18.