This week, MIT announced that it would be discontinuing eight of its varsity sports teams in order to save money. It was just one of the schools around the nation forced to drop programs after reexamining their budgets due to the recession. The Wesleyan Athletics Department is one of the many institutions facing budget cuts and reevaluating its expenditures, but unlike MIT, Wesleyan is not yet being forced to cut any sports teams. 

Reducing athletics was one of the items on the list of potential places to reduce the University’s budget from the February Board of Trustees meeting. Like other programs on the list, such as the Wesleyan University Press and Green Street Arts Center, the Athletics Department has been looking for ways to reduce its budget with the least amount of impact on the University.

“We were asked to look for ways that we could reduce our overall expenditures and we have done so,” said Director of Athletics John Biddiscombe.

Wesleyan is not making cuts alone—most of the changes have been approved by the entire New Enlgand Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), meaning that schools such as Amherst, Bates, Williams, and Middlebury are all making the same cutbacks.

“I think our institutions are looking at their budgets very carefully right now,” said Andrea Savage, Executive Director of the NESCAC Office. “The Presidents and athletic directors are working together and acting effectively to come up with cost-saving measures.”

Because all the NESCAC schools are adopting many of the same measures, no school will gain an advantage. Women’s and men’s basketball teams will travel together, so NESCAC schools will have back-to-back games. In order to reduce overnight trips, schools are adjusting their schedules to allow for travel and a game all in one day. Size limitations for travel squads is uniform across NESCAC so that no one team is not limited by having fewer players. Further, teams will no longer be permitted to travel outside of the continetal US. NESCAC is also reducing the number of officials schools employ.

For now, the Athletic Department hopes to limit the cutbacks to less conspicuous changes.

“We’re trying to do these budget cuts this round in a way that is going to be painful but not obvious,” Biddiscombe said. “The actual user group may not really even notice significantly how things have changed.”

Biddiscombe acknowledges, however, that if the economy continues to decline, more severe cuts may have to be made in future years, potentially including the elimination of games, programs, or even teams.

“If we have to go deeper into budget cuts, the next step will be what we call program changes,” he said. “You’ll say, ‘What happened to that game or to this team or to that program?’ and we’ll say, ‘Well, we eliminated it.’ You can only reduce support for the current program to a certain level until you start to diminish its excellence.”

Julie Soriero, Director of Athletics at MIT, has been through the process of making such eliminations.

“MIT has supported 41 varsity teams so there has always been a question around our campus as to how we could continue to economically sustain that number of programs,” she said.

Over the past six years, MIT performed a Health and Vitality Study to determine what areas of athletics would be the least difficult to discontinue. They decided to cut the eight varsity teams, including wrestling, ice hockey and gymnastics, in the hopes that they would continue as club teams.

“It was a very difficult decision and it’s one I hope I don’t have to make again,” Soriero said.

Biddiscombe said that Wesleyan might consider offering fewer classes, granting less support to club teams, and cutting varsity teams if the budget problems continue to worsen. 

According to Savage, a NESCAC school’s decision to eliminate a sports team or multiple teams would not affect their ability to participate in the conference. NESCAC does not have any policies about adding or dropping sports, she said.

“That is certainly an institutional decision,” Savage said. “I don’t know what the depths of the individual conversations have been on campuses. [The recession] affects all our institutions differently.”

As for now, though, Athletics is trying to keep changes small. In addition to the cutbacks all NESCAC teams are making, they are printing fewer publications by putting handbooks online, replacing the position of door manager with student card readers, reducing employment within the department without layoffs, and limiting the number of days teams can be on campus during breaks.

“The impact will be subtle. I don’t think people who are not in our department will see the impact of our cuts,” Biddiscombe said. “But we need to be thinking about [the possibility of larger cutbacks] and hope that it will never happen.”

  • Anonymous

    Hm. It’s refreshing to see athletics cut before the arts, for once (not to hate).

  • Anonymous

    I donate money every year to the athletic program since I have graduated, I think athletics is an integral part of my experience at Wesleyan. Anonymous, do you support the arts programs annually?

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    I hope they don’t cut the hockey team…they are the STUDS on campus!

  • Anonymous

    oh look at me! i’m donating money to the athletic program!

  • Anon 10:51

    I’m a prefrosh, but I do give annually to the arts programs (both performing arts and the literary magazine) at my high school, yes.

    I wasn’t trying to be hostile, though — why are you antagonistically trying to make the arts and athletics seem like rivals? What an accusatory comment… Let’s all get along.

  • prospective student

    Any advice for a prospective student/athlete serious looking at Wesleyan? Am I better advised to look elsewhere lest my team fall victim to the chopping block before my first day?

  • CTP

    If you have the chance to become a Wes Cardinal you should do it!!! In all seriousness, this is something you need to discuss with the head coach of the team you are looking to join. Unfortunately a lot of schools are cutting their sports programs this year, so this is something you must bring up w/them. I had a fantastic time playing for Wesleyan. The facilities are great and being part of a team is a great way of meeting new people. Best of luck!!!