From left, University of Wyoming Athletic Director Tom Burman, Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl and CSU football coach Mike Bobo laugh after the firing of the canon during the handoff ceremony startled them Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, along U.S. Highway 287. ROTC cadets from Colorado State University ran the game ball to the border for a handoff between the coaches and directors, before the cadets from Wyoming ran the ball the rest of the way to Laramie in advance of the Border War game. Nadav Soroker/Laramie Boomerang

LARAMIE – As college athletics departments across the nation scramble to make ends meet in the midst of a pandemic, the University of Wyoming finds itself having to make sacrifices, as well.

UW athletics director Tom Burman told WyoSports the department has cut about $1 million from its expenses budget thus far, mainly by cutting travel costs and a lack of summer school for student-athletes. There are no plans to cut any of UW’s 17 sports, Burman said, which has not been the case at many programs nationally, particularly non-Power Five schools.

“There hasn’t been any discussion of cutting sports,” Burman said. “We’re scrambling around and trying to figure out how to (balance things).”

Around the country, college athletics departments are downsizing to stop the financial bleeding that COVID-19 has caused. East Carolina University announced Thursday it is cutting its men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs and its men’s and women’s tennis programs, which will save the athletics department nearly $5 million. Last week, Bowling Green announced it was cutting its baseball program to save about $500,000 per year. Per Yahoo! Sports, Cincinnati has cut men’s soccer, while Old Dominion slashed its wrestling program.

Division I schools at the FBS level must have at least 16 varsity sports (minimum of seven men’s and seven women’s or six men’s and eight women’s), per the NCAA’s website. UW currently has 17 sports, eight men’s and nine women’s.

Burman said a major reason why UW has not discussed cutting any of its programs is because many of its teams – particularly its spring sports – rely on partial scholarships, rather than full ones. UW only has five programs that require full scholarships: football, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s tennis and women’s volleyball. Student-athlete financial aid in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball cost more than $3.6 million in 2019; the other 14 sports cost about $3.1 million, per UW’s annual report.

Burman also has taken a 10% pay cut that will last through the remainder of the calendar year.

Much of the revenue UW has lost stems from the cancelation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Though neither the Cowboys or Cowgirls made it to their respective tournaments, the school’s annual payout from the NCAA was expected to total about $1.6 million, Burman said back in April; a large chunk of that money was to come from the men’s tournament. While the amount each D-I school received or will receive is unknown, the NCAA announced in March that its payout budget had been slashed from $600 million to $225 million due to the pandemic and lack of a men’s tournament and the consequent loss of ticket sales and television rights.

Among the additional ways that UW has tried to narrow the loss of revenue is by tasking new men’s basketball coach Jeff Linder with finding a guarantee game against a premier opponent. Linder came through by clinching a matchup with the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, a powerhouse program from the Pac-12. The game will take place during the 2020-21 season, Burman told WyoSports, and UW will be paid $90,000 for the game.

UW and Arizona have played 35 times previously in basketball, with the Wildcats holding a 20-15 edge. The last time the teams played was in 2004, when No. 21 Arizona won in Tucson 98-70.

Michael Katz covers the University of Wyoming for WyoSports. He can be reached at mkatz@wyosports.net or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @michaellkatz.

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