Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The NCAA Crisis: Recession is like recess, right?

In 1980 gymnasts smiled when they did iron crosses.

Ron Gallimore became the first African American to be named to a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.

In 1980 wearing necklaces while competing was okay.

Whatever Nadia can do, I can do.

Oh, and in 1980 a recession hit America, which was followed by another recession in 1981-2. I don't know about you, but when there's a recession, I like to celebrate by finding the busiest bar and buying everyone a round of PatrĂ³n. Money was made for spending, right? 

I'm sure that universities feel the same way about money. They just spend their way through recessions–never cutting back and certainly never cutting sports teams like men's gymnastics.

Unfortunately, I, as a blogger who calls himself Uncle Tim, can only do so much research on these matters. Can you imagine me calling up provosts, deans, and librarians?

Hello, my name is Uncle Tim, and I'm doing research for my blog... Click.

So, I do not have the data to run regressions (for the stats nerds) or to do some number crunching (for the mathematically challenged), but there seems to be a trend. Shortly after a recession, men's gymnastics programs begin to magically disappear. Let's take a looky-poo.

The economy hit the crapper in January 1980, but it rallied like a sorority girl on her 21st birthday–only to hit the crapper again in July of 1981. This time, the economy passed out for quite sometime despite everyone's best efforts to revive it.

The thing about alcohol is that after you binge on it, it usually takes you a while to trust it again. So too with the economy. Even though the U.S. pulled itself out of the recession in November 1982, 1983 was still a precarious year.

But that would never have any effect on college sports. They are recession resistant, right?

1981-82: 79 teams
1982-83: 71 teams
1983-84: 71 teams


Well, there seems to be a correlation. Like I said, I don't have the financial data to really prove anything; I'm just noticing a trend: Down economy, down men's gymnastics programs.

Shall we see what happend in the 90s?

1990-91: 43
1991-92: 40
1992-93: 40
1993-94: 33

According to economists, an 8-month recession hit the U.S. in July 1990. Something you must understand about universities is that they start preparing their budgets before the school year begins, and once that budget is in place, there's little you can do to change it. You simply start adjusting for the following school year if there are problems. So, when the economy started to slide in July of 1990, it was too late to really change the 1990-91 budgets. Cuts would not take place until the 1991-92 academic year.

Oh, and there were 3 of them! Hmm...

Though the recession technically lasted only until March 1991, the media labeled this downturn a 3-year recession because the effects were so devastating that some counties were still struggling in 1994. Somehow, between the 1992-3 and the 1993-4 school year, another 7 programs disappeared, but I'm sure it had nothing to do with the economy. It must have been the result of Title IX!

Oh, that devilish "Title IX"–always popping up at the beginning of a decade or at the beginning of a century.

2000-01: 24
2001-02: 23
2002-03: 20

By Title IX, I mean, economic downturn. This one hit in March of 2001, which is a tricky time for universities. Do you immediately start cutting away at your budget? Or do you wait things out, hoping that the economy recovers quickly? I'm not a university administrator, but I think I'd wait and start praying to the economy gods.

Unfortunately, it was more than a little hiccup. Though the recession officially ended in November 2001, recovery was still not in sight in February 2002, when university administrators were planning for the 2002-3 school year. Could that be why 3 programs disappeared?

Probably not. Must be Title IX. I mean, if my theory were true, then, men's gymnastics programs would have disappeared at the end of the 2000s when the economy gods reached down from heaven and pummeled us with their fists, their feet, and finished us off with a good headbutt.

2007-08: 17
2008-09: 17
2009-10: 17
2010-11: 17

Oh, wait, that whole Cal-Berkeley issue... The 2010-11 season was supposed to be the last for the Bears men's gymnastics team. When Sandy Barbour, the athletic director, announced the cuts, she said,

“Cal Athletics is not immune to the effects of the recession, and the financial realities affecting this campus..."


To be fair, Title IX was a factor in the decision. As the official press release stated, "Along with financial impact and history of competitive success, compliance with Title IX requirements for gender equity was a key consideration in deciding which teams to cut."

The funny thing is... University officials didn't really take into consideration Title IX. (At least that's how the New York Times spun the story.) You see, the Bears were in compliance with Title IX by asserting that it met the "interests and abilities" of its female students. When the athletics department decided to cut women's lacrosse and women's gymnastics, they were no longer in compliance with that prong. To comply, they would have had to choose the proportionality prong, which would have meant cutting 50 more spots for women and 80 spots for men.

And university officials were prepared to start cutting the rosters. They had informed coaches of this plan, but for whatever reason, they changed their mind. They let the teams stick around, but only if they raised money.

By April 2011, the baseball team, the women's gymnastics team, the women's lacrosse team, and the rugby team had raised a combined total of $18 million to cover their costs for the next several years. The men's gymnastics team, however, was struggling. It had raised only $2.5 million in pledges, and it needed $4 million. Nonetheless, the university, in its benevolence, allowed the program to continue with a limited budget.

At the end of the day, for Cal, it was about the money.

Hey! It must be the money!

How much money do you think we could get for Nelly's grill? $1.5 million? Enough to get Cal to the $4 million mark?


  1. It will be interesting to see what happens now with college sports after our negro leader has put us into a financial toilet bowl.

    1. The last recession started in December 2007. President Obama took oath on January 20, 2009.

  2. Clearly there are some NCAA sports which were harder hit by budget cuts than others. The real questions are 1) was men's NCAA gymnastics harder hit than other sports and 2) if so, why?

    As far as football and men's basketball are concerned, it won't matter if the next POTUS is from Uranus. Those sports are not going anywhere.

    Gentle reminder: Once California discovered they would not be able to comply with Title IX via roster management (so many male athletes would have to be eliminated some of the remaining teams would not have been viable), the women's gymnastics teams were going to be reinstated. They would not have had to raise a cent. They would have either gone to court and gotten a judge to order the teams reinstated or the OCR would have ordered the University to reinstate them.

    The majority of the funds to sustain the women's teams were generated by Rugby. This was part of the deal for Rugby to earn reinstatement.

    The California men's gymnastics team was reinstated only after Rugby, the women's teams, and baseball (which raised 9 million $ and was initially told even that wasn't enough). At the point the University probably figured they might as well negotiate. They also have an AD that was really behind the team.

    The intial cuts at California were not motivated by Title IX, but Title IX cleary shaped the decision. If it was really just all about the money, Rugby (which was already close to self supporting) and Baseball would been reinstated, and that would have been the end of it.

    If the California story were "just about the money", Rugby probably never would have been cut at all.