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YSU has no plans to eliminate sports

Personnel, operating budget cuts expected due to pandemic

The University of Akron cut men’s cross country and golf, along with women’s tennis. Bowling Green State University eliminated its baseball team.

Those moves occurred last week.

Earlier this month, Western Michigan slashed more than $6 million of its more than $31 millon athletics budget.

Those are three Mid-American Conference schools feeling the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Youngstown State University, which has an athletic budget of around $16 million, will have to make sacrifices as well.

“Our institution, like any industry, is being affected greatly by this COVID-19,” YSU Director of Athletics Ron Strollo said. “We’re going to have a budget reality on our campus that we’re going to have to manage. With that will come personnel and operating budget cuts that will be as severe cuts as we’ve had in the 24 years that I’ve been here.”

YSU has 19 Division I sports. Football is in the Football Championship Subdivision, which used to be Division I-AA, and plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Women’s lacrosse, which starts in 2021, will play in the MAC. Women’s bowling is in the Southland Bowling League. The remainder of the 16 D-I sports (baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, women’s soccer and volleyball) compete in the Horizon League.

“We’re obviously going to cut stuff,” Strollo said. “As far as us cutting sports, our approach toward intercollegiate athletics and our sponsorship (of sports) is part of the overall enrollment and admissions goal of our institution. In these times, not only do you not want to disrupt your current students and their families’ lives by dropping a sport, but we’re eager to maintain and build upon the current enrollment here at YSU.”

President Jim Tressel said earlier this month he would take a 15 percent cut from his $309,575 annual salary.

Strollo said a chart was sent out stating that anyone who made more than $65,000 would have a salary reduction. The university-wide cuts would save $675,486 from cuts of 2 to 10 percent of non-union staff.

“There’s approximately 15 athletic department staff members that are affected by the salary reduction,” Strollo said.

The Mid-American Conference announced last week that its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would eliminate first-round, on-campus games, and east and west divisions would be eliminated in basketball — giving each team 20 conference games.

Meanwhile, championships for MAC field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s lacrosse, softball and baseball will be determined based on regular-season league records. Those postseason tournaments have been eliminated. Volleyball’s tournament has been downsized from eight to four teams.

Strollo said he and other Horizon League athletic directors talk twice a week to find ways to save money for the league office budget which also is feeling the economic pinch of the pandemic.

“Are there things we can do collectively to try to lower expenses at least for this one year for all of the institutions?” Strollo said. “We’re evaluating all of that. Clearly conference championships are part of that discussion. We also understand how important those championships are to our student-athletes’ experience. We’re probably going to work really hard to maintain some level of a postseason championship for every sport.”

Being part of the Horizon and the MVAC is a place where YSU needs to be right now.

“We’re thrilled with the memberships we have in the Horizon League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference,” Strollo said. “I think it’s the right position for us and our institution.”

The economic downturn is affecting YSU’s athletic department as it is for most institutions around the country. Strollo said he has faith in the leadership of Tressel and YSU’s Board of Trustees to do what’s right for the university.

“We’re going to lose a lot of positions here,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. I think we can be stronger coming out of it. Obviously, I think we have really good leadership.”

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