Written by Kai McClelland
Loyola Marymount University (LMU) plans to cut six sports by the end of the 2023–24 season, according to a Wednesday news release. The sports being cut include men’s cross-country, men’s rowing, men’s track and field, women’s rowing, women’s swimming, and women’s track and field. Roughly 115 students and seven coaches will be impacted by the decision.
According to the University’s press release, the decision was made “after carefully considering various internal and external factors, including the transformational changes impacting college athletics nationally, from the advent of name, image, and likeness (NIL) to changing transfer rules to pending rulings on student-athletes as employees, among others.” Athletic Director Craig Pintens stated, “This decision, while difficult, best positions our department and remaining Division I sports for success.” LMU has said they will honor the athletic financial aid of all those affected if they stay at the university to finish their studies.
According to Tawny Smith, a current LMU Women’s Cross Country athlete, the conversation wasn’t an easy one. Pintens told the over 100 affected athletes about the decision on Tuesday night, four days after the deadline to withdraw from the school without losing the semester’s tuition. She explains that she was forced to go to class the next day while processing the life-altering news, breaking into tears while discussing a potential transfer with her academic advisor.
“Nobody ever comes to a school thinking they are going to transfer,” Smith said in a statement to The Hidden Opponent. “Me and every single one of my best friends came here envisioning our next four years [...] representing a school that we love so much. [...] Now, it is between staying at a school I love [...or] giving up the sport I have dedicated my life too [sic].”
Several current and former athletes have expressed their frustration with the decision, especially considering there was little to no warning preceding the cuts.
“The team is amazing and deserves to continue. [...] Whether you are an alumni or simply a fan of distance running (or rowing or swimming), this is something you should care about,” LMU Cross Country and Track alumni Jack Polerecky stated in an Instagram post. His post also pointed out the hypocrisy of Athletic Director Craig Pintens, who made and announced the decision. According to Polerecky, the decision was, in essence, made due to money, but Pintens makes $350,000+ per year, which is enough to fund the men’s and women’s cross country teams and still have enough left over to provide a 6-figure salary for Pintens.
Additionally, according to data obtained from the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis, the six teams cut appear to be the least expensive in terms of operating expenses per participant, with men’s rowing being the lowest at $637 dollars per participant. In comparison, sports such as Men’s Basketball cost $94,882 per participant to operate. Although sports such as basketball generate more revenue for the institution than the cut sports, several members of the LMU community have questioned why administration opted to cut teams instead of identifying alternative methods of fundraising, especially since the teams already had low operating costs. While such an observation lacks context of what is going on behind the scenes in the LMU athletic department, it is still valid, especially considering the heavy impact of the decision and the lack of justification from LMU as to why it was made.
Some athletes were also frustrated by the language used to communicate the decision, as it implied that the sports cut and the athletes that play them were an afterthought to administration.
“The rhetoric used by Athletic Director Craig Pintens suggests he made this decision to better the student athlete experience at LMU. This begs the question, who does he consider to be a student athlete? The choice to cut six teams from the Athletic program makes it clear we are viewed as expendable and disposable, and certainly not as the dedicated student athletes that we are,” current Men’s Cross Country and Track athlete Carson Foster said in a statement to The Hidden Opponent.
Regardless of the emotional weight of the decision, the impacted teams are facing the cuts with courage and determination. “We are going to make it a point to show administration and whoever was involved with making that decision that we are not going down without a fight,” current women’s Cross Country and Track athlete Hayden Washington said in a statement to The Hidden Opponent.