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CMU awaits word from NCAA on whether it must add another men's sport

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Central Michigan athletic director Michael Alford said he expects to hear next week from the NCAA, which is determining if the university can receive a temporary waiver to stay under the minimum number of men's sports teams.

Central is at five men’s teams, one under the minimum to remain at the Division I level, after eliminating men's indoor and outdoor track and field amid COVID-19 budget cuts earlier this month.

Central is at 16 sports overall, meeting the NCAA Division I threshold.

Central Michigan cut its men's track and field program earlier this month.

In cutting men's track and field, Central said it expects to save about $300,000 a year in the short-term, and more than $600,000 a year in the long-term.

But the elimination created other complications, given the NCAA's minimum standards. Alford has said repeatedly that the university is not in any danger of losing its Division I status.

If the NCAA approves the waiver request, it would be for two years, until Central can get its books back in order after the coronavirus shutdown wreaked havoc on its athletic department's budget — as it has with colleges and universities throughout the country.

If the request is denied — and that seems a strong possibility, given an approval would set a precedent the NCAA would prefer not to — Central has a fallback plan, Alford said.

Alford wouldn't publicly provide specifics on the fallback plan, but it almost certainly would require the addition of another men's sport.

One possibility could be bringing back men's golf. That annual budget would be no more than half what track and field was, and possibility significantly less, given a men's golf program could share program infrastructure with the women's golf team, which plays out of Mt. Pleasant Country Club. The women's golf budget was around $240,000 as recently as 2017-18. Scholarship expenses would be limited, too, with the NCAA Division I cap at 4.5 for golf. Central's track and field teams had 36 student-athletes.

Track and field is not an option to come back, Alford said.

Central is one of a growing list of Division I schools to announce the elimination of sports teams amid the COVID-19 pandemic, though the only one in Michigan.

Each of the state's other Division I schools have taken steps toward reducing their budgets, including several athletic directors and high-profile coaches taking voluntary pay cuts.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984