In November 2020, Clemson University announced that its men’s track and field and cross-country teams would be cut after the 2021 outdoor season. Almost immediately, a petition was started to save the program, and on Thursday the University announced that it would be reinstated following this academic year, saving the decorated team that has been a part of Clemon’s athletics program since 1953.
One factor that helped save the men’s team was that the pandemic didn’t have as big an impact on the athletic department’s revenue as they originally thought. The other was the work of Russell Dinkins, a former Princeton middle-distance runner who has been working with track and cross country programs across the country that are facing elimination.
Dinkins filed a complaint with the Department of Education in January, stating that the decision to cut the men’s team was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funding from being discriminated against on the basis of race, colour or national origin. According to a video released in December, cutting the Clemson men’s track and cross country programs would eliminate 67 per cent of its black athletes in non-revenue generating sports.
Not only has the program been re-instated for 2022, but the school will also be adding one or more women’s varsity sports in the near future as a part of its new Gender Equity plan. Following the announcement, athletic director Dan Radakovich said in a statement that he was “appreciative of the support of the University and our collaboration that will allow us to not only maintain our current sports portfolio but add to it in the very near future.”
“As we communicated previously, the original decision was difficult, and we did what was necessary at the time to maintain compliance with gender equity while addressing our financial situation,” he added. “I am excited about the future of Clemson Athletics and for our student-athletes.”
Why was the team cut?
Reasons for eliminating the team, according to the University, were two-fold. The school’s athletic department projected it would lose $25 million for 2020, and cutting the men’s track and field and cross country program would save it $2 million, making a larger dent in the school’s supposed deficit than any other sport.
The reason the men’s team was on the chopping block and not the women’s was because of the Title IX rule, which 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.” In other words, this rule means there needs to be equal opportunity for men’s and women’s athletes, proportionate to enrollment.
While this rule has many positive outcomes, it also means that when schools are looking to make budget cuts to their athletics programs, the men’s teams for non-revenue generating sports like cross-country, track and field, tennis, swimming and rowing are often the first to get cut in an effort to maintain Title IX compliance.