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Clemson cuts men’s track and cross-country, one of the NCAA’s strongest programs

One of the NCAA's best sprinting programs was axed this week

On Thursday, Clemson University in South Carolina announced it plans to cut its men’s indoor and outdoor track programs along with its men’s cross-country roster, effective June 2021. Dan Radakovich, the school’s director of athletics, announced this cut in a letter. Radakovich writes, “After a long period of deliberative discussion and analysis we concluded that discontinuing our men’s track and field program is in the best long-term interests of Clemson Athletics. While this decision comes during the significant  financial challenges due to the ongoing pandemic, those challenges are just one of many factors that led to this decision.”

The Clemson men’s track and field program have a storied history, producing Olympians like Canadian sprint hurdler Charles Allen, 200m runner Shawn Crawford, and one of the fastest-ever American sprinters, 100m runner Michael Green. They were undeniably one of the strongest sprinting programs in the U.S. 

Clemson is one of many schools that have axed their men’s running programs for 2021. Several other schools including William & Mary (their program was reinstated this week), University of Akron and Brown University, have also attempted to cut their programs. Clemson will continue to honour the student-athletes who are attending school on scholarship until their degrees are completed. 

Why the men’s teams are getting cut

In the NCAA, several universities and colleges have cut track and field and cross-country programs due to revenue losses from COVID-19. Many schools have cited Title IX as the reason for these cuts. Title IX is an NCAA-wide rule that ensures equal opportunity for male and female athletes, proportionate to enrolment. The policy states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

This means that across the entire athletic department (meaning all sports), there has to be equal opportunity for men and women to compete, which includes an equal amount of scholarship money. A sport like football, for example, draws a lot of money out of the men’s scholarship and funding pool. Without a football team (or a team of equivalent roster size) in the women’s sports, their track and field athletes reap those rewards, but the men’s running programs can suffer.

U Sports could become a better option for Canadian athletes

So far no Canadian schools have cut running programs due to COVID-19. With the future of sport remaining uncertain, staying close to home and running in a more stable (albeit less competitive) system could be a better option for now.