Several varsity sports soon could disappear at the University of Maryland as a result of an NCAA rules change effective Aug. 1 that reduces the number of grants-in-aid from 80 to 70 in men's nonrevenue-producing sports.
For the next school year, Athletic Director Dick Dull used a fixed percentage across the board to reduce grants for all men's sports except football and basketball, which are guided by separate NCAA regulations. However, he is undertaking a study of all sports to determine future allocation.
"I'd rather have 10 good sports than 14 average ones," Dull said yesterday about the program, which actually has 12 men's varsity sports. "Right now we're trying to spread too few assets over too many areas. In the next year I have to assess priorities, determine what is important to Maryland. On such short notice, to have taken the cut out of one or two sports would have forced me to renege on promises made to students and I would not do that.
"But in the future we may restore full funding to some sports while reducing others to club status. Eliminating varsity sports is an option I don't particularly like, but, economically, something has to be done."
Maryland fields varsity teams in these nonrevenue sports: baseball, indoor and outdoor track, cross country, soccer, wrestling, tennis, golf, swimming, lacrosse. Maryland dropped fencing two years ago.
None of the women's 10 varsity sports will be affected.
The reduction in grants hits Maryland harder than most because of its lacrosse program. Schools that do not field lacrosse teams have an easier time spreading out the 70 grants.
"Having lacrosse means I'm dividing the grants more ways, but we get a lot of mileage out of the lacrosse program, so I have no complaint in that area," Dull said.
Many schools already have taken Dull's projected route, specializing in some sports and eliminating others. A similar problem, on a lesser scale, faces the track coach, Stan Pitts, who must live with 12 grants next year instead of the present 14.
Maryland always has boasted balanced track and field teams, benefiting from field-event strength that was ignored by schools concentrating on sprinters, or distance runners. The track team's grants, under previous coach Frank Costello, were halved and quartered and, along with abundant part-time jobs, went a long way.
Now, however, Pitts is wondering whether he can continue to maintain an all-round program or whether he should specialize in certain areas. The Atlantic Coast Conference championships, Friday and Saturday at Charlottesville, could provide some answers.
Maryland has won the ACC meet 25 times in the last 26 years. However, this time North Carolina State, with superior sprinters, is favored to win. Clemson, which ended a 24-year Maryland reign in 1980 largely because of its corps of foreign-born distance runners, is another potent challenger.
The Terrapins two weeks ago competed in what figures to be their last dual meet, defeating Navy, 87-76. Dual meets in track and field are becoming rare, as schools are unable to maintain the large teams necessary for such competition.
"With scholarships limited, and the budget the way it is, we can't afford to have a big team," Pitts said. "We have to go for top-quality athletes in smaller numbers.
"It would be simple to say, 'Just go field events.' It may go to that, but I'd hate to do it. I'd like to recruit the best athletes regardless of the event. But we have problems in the quarter-mile area, where you can go in both directions and score a lot of points. That's what N.C. State is doing, saying the heck with the distance program.
"We've always had the tradition with respect to the ACC meet. The ACC teams were never that powerful and we often left people home who could score. Now we're standing still and other ACC schools are putting more money into the program."