This past Friday, Bowling Green State University’s baseball program was axed by the university. Unfortunately, we may be hearing a lot of stories like this soon.
End of Bowling Green’s Baseball Program
Bowling Green University, whose baseball program started in 1915, announced on Friday that the school will disband the team. While BGSU may not have had much success over the past 10 seasons (Bowling Green has had a sub-.500 winning percentage in every season since 2010), the school has produced several talented Major Leaguers throughout its history. Notable Bowling Green Univerisity alumni include former Dodgers P Orel Hershiser, former Orioles OF Nolan Reimold, and current Marlins utilityman Jon Berti.
Bowling Green made the move to cut its team as part of a restructuring of the school’s athletic department. BGSU stated in its announcement that the university is expecting to face a shortfall of USD 29M, and the move, as part of a USD 2M expense reduction, will save the school about $500,000.
On the move, BGSU Athletic Director Bob Moosbruger stated, “This was a very difficult, but necessary, decision. As a baseball alumnus, my heart breaks for the families affected by this decision. We will ensure the student-athletes in the program have support during this challenging time. We will honor their scholarship agreements through graduation and, should they pursue their collegiate baseball career elsewhere, we will assist in the process of finding a new home.”
But Why Baseball?
It’s important to point out that college baseball, for the vast majority of schools, rarely generates revenue for schools. This is not just the norm for mid-major schools like BGSU, but schools in Power Five Conferences as well. To illustrate, let’s take a look at Alabama’s baseball program for 2019. While the school’s baseball team generated a little over USD 2M last year, the school lost almost USD 5M (exactly USD 4,990,961) on the sport.
Universities, for the most part, rely on revenue generated from the college football and basketball seasons to fund the remaining school-sponsored teams. However, football and basketball games aren’t the only major sources of revenue for athletic departments.
Athletic offices also rely on tuition and additional fees from students, sources of revenues that have and will be impacted by the novel coronavirus. The Athletic‘s Stewart Mandel pointed out on Twitter that about 55% of the school’s athletic budget comes not from other sports, but enrollment revenue:
The looming crisis right now for athletic departments like Bowling Green (which cut baseball today) isn't loss of football tickets, it's enrollment declines in the fall. More than half of BG's athletic budget comes from student fees. Similar at a lot of G5 schools. pic.twitter.com/BgR47PfyPR
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) May 15, 2020
This is a significant problem, especially considering that there will be schools that will not have in-person classes next fall. Since schools not only bring in revenue from enrollment, bookstore purchases, as well as from food and housing, a lack of students on campuses in the fall will mean fewer cash inflows, and, in short, less money for schools to allocate to athletic departments.
Is This a Sign of Things to Come?
Unfortunately, the answer to this is yes. Since some schools have already decided to hold only remote classes this fall, as well as a lot of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming college football and basketball seasons, these factors will most likely result in the cutting of more baseball programs.
For college baseball fans, this is without a doubt a punch to the gut. And for the coaches and players who are now out on their feet (and those who may be out on their feet in the future), an uncertain future now awaits them. Will the players on BGSU’s roster have trouble getting recruited by other schools? Considering that the 2020 MLB Draft will be a five-round affair and the fact that other schools will also feel the financial crunch, the answer to that is most likely yes.
It’s tough to think about, but these next few months could get ugly for baseball.
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