Throughout higher education, there’s a developing — and uncomfortable — thread: Cutting sports and jobs in athletics departments ought to be a priority in dealing with the economic fallout from coronavirus.
The argument goes something like this: Athletics is not essential to the higher education mission and therefore trimming sports and the men and women associated with that sport or from the department in general is appropriate before cutting anywhere else.
Lost in that weak sauce argument is that each of those people is being punished simply because of his or her association with sports. Imagine the outrage if people in athletics strenuously called for academic staff to be unloaded; the hue and cry would be instantaneous, and those people calling for such job cuts would instead be the ones on the unemployment line.
That’s the background to the news out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where today almost two-dozen athletic department personnel were let go by the University of Michigan.
According to the Detroit Free Press,
Athletic director Warde Manuel announced Tuesday afternoon the department is eliminating 21 positions while facing “a potential revenue loss of $100 million.”
Manuel’s revenue-loss projections came during a podcast released Tuesday. He followed up hours later with a statement publicizing a round of nearly two dozen layoffs.
No, athletics ought not be the first place to look for fiscal savings as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. The 21 people who are now former employees at Michigan hope you understand that.