A charter member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland boasts an ambitious array of 27 varsity sports for men and women. Few universities offer more than 25.
A state budget document for fiscal 2010, the latest data available, shows Maryland’s athletic program with revenues of $42.6 million and expenses of $43.4 million in that year. University spokesman Brian Ullmann said he couldn’t release the program’s balance sheet for 2011.
Administrators have used reserve funds to balance the budget, but now that fund is running dry. This year, the athletic department is plugging the hole by borrowing money from elsewhere in the university budget, said Linda Clement, vice president for student affairs and co-chair of the new commission.
“We’re facing a challenge right now, which is that our expenses are outstripping revenues,” Clement said. “And so we need to take a careful look at why that is so and how we can ensure that doesn’t happen [again] in the short term and in the long term.”
Clement said it was far too soon to talk about potential cuts to athletic programs: “We haven’t had a single meeting yet,” she said.
Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson was on vacation and could not be reached to comment.
Any decision to cut sports is emotionally and politically charged, given the sentiments of alumni and the legal imperative of complying with Title IX, the federal legislation mandating equal opportunities for men and women at schools that receive federal funds.
Nonetheless, many universities have been forced to drop so-called “non-revenue sports” to keep their athletic departments solvent.
California-Berkeley was met with howls of protest in announcing plans to cut five sports (baseball, men’s rugby, women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s gymnastics) last September, projecting a $4 million annual savings in paring 29 sports to 24.
Maryland has also struggled financially in football, which along with men’s basketball is one of the two typical “revenue” sports at college athletics’ top levels. Maryland fell more than $500,000 short of season ticket sales projections each of the past two seasons, according to school officials. And Byrd Stadium, which seats 54,000, was filled to 75 percent capacity only once during the 2010 season.
Maryland spent $50.8 million to create 64 luxury suites and 440 mezzanine seats at the football stadium, an expansion project that opened in 2009 to lukewarm response.