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Justifying Athletics Reductions

Guest Column
Richard A. Hill

Recent editions of The Tech have contained articles and an editorial relating to the decision by the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation to impose restrictions on junior varsity programs, practice squad sizes, and travel squad sizes in the intercollegiate athletic program. These decisions were not made capriciously. They required deliberation, planning, hours of discussion, and are a result of several years of attempting to regulate the MIT intercollegiate athletics program to fit the budget figure granted the Department by the MIT administration.

In the 1994-1995 academic year, varsity coaches at MIT were asked to expand the rosters of the varsity teams with an eye toward eliminating junior varsity programs. At that time the Institute sponsored a total of eleven junior varsity sports. There were 12 assistant coaches dedicated to these programs. The junior varsity programs used personnel, equipment, occupied facility space, required expenditures from the athletics budget, and impacted numerous Department support services (e.g., sports medicine, equipment room).

Over the course of the next several years, most junior varsity opportunities were absorbed into varsity programs. In the 1998-1999 academic year, the only sub-varsity programs that continued to represent the name “junior varsity” were in men’s soccer, men’s tennis, and men’s squash. These programs were not accorded financial support for junior varsity competition. In July of 1999, the budget allotted the Department of Athletics forced further constraints. In order to run a cost-effective operation within the constraints imposed by the budget, the Department of Athletics was faced with a choice regarding the intercollegiate program: eliminate programs, or reduce the scope of the programs offered. The latter action was chosen.

Reduction of scope in the programs was accomplished in three ways. The remaining three participating junior varsity programs were eliminated, a maximum travel squad size was instituted for each of MIT’s 41 intercollegiate sports, and a maximum squad size was established for each intercollegiate activity.

Opportunities for participation in athletics have not been reduced. Although some intercollegiate programs faced reduction, the Institute continues to sponsor over 40 active club sports, which offer virtually unlimited participation. Intramural programs continue to provide opportunities for any student who wishes to participate. Informal recreation opportunities may even increase as facilities are occupied less by varsity and junior varsity athletes.

In addition, in the 1998-99 academic year, MIT responded to the desires of students and added women’s ice hockey and women’s indoor track and field to the varsity programs offered. This has also provided MIT with an opportunity to come closer to complying with Title IX/Gender Equity guidelines. MIT has also continued to increase opportunities for women by expanding the squad sizes of the women’s tennis, women’s fencing, and women’s lightweight crew teams.

Elimination of the three junior varsity sports for men and the reduction of squad sizes was not due to Title IX/Gender Equity issues. While Title IX regulations have assisted in guiding the Department of Athletics through this difficult process, it is budget-related issues that have forced our hand.

The decisions made this past July were painful. Based on the current budget allotted the Department of Athletics, however, they were necessary. We have been charged by the MIT administration with running one of the world’s two largest collegiate athletics departments in a cost-effective manner while still providing participation opportunities. Our recent decisions are our best attempt at meeting that edict.

Richard A. Hill is MIT’s Director of Athletics.