Clemson University has walked back its plans to cut the university’s men’s track and field and cross country programs.
Clemson’s men’s track and field and cross country programs will continue after this academic year, the university announced. The university will also add one or more women’s varsity sports in the near future.
Clemson met with attorneys to conduct a gender equity review of its athletic teams to implement a new Gender Equity Plan. It will be completed no later than July 1, 2022 to ensure Title IX compliance across all programs.
“I am 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,” athletic director Dan Radakovich said in a statement on Thursday. “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. I am excited about the future of Clemson Athletics and for our student-athletes.”
The university decided to cut the programs in November 2020, with the final season scheduled for the 2021 outdoor campaign. Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said the decision came after reviewing the athletic department’s financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cutting men’s track and field and cross country would save about $2 million, making a dent in a projected $25 million resource shortfall for this fiscal year.
“In our long-term planning, we looked at the changing demographics of the Clemson campus,” Radakovich wrote in an open letter in November. “Of Clemson’s men’s sports, only men’s track and field and cross country could provide the Department with both substantial cost savings as well as the ability for long-term Title IX compliance.”
The release on Thursday noted that revised financial projections by the university showed that the impacts of COVID-19 “while significant, did not harm the University in as drastic a way as anticipated.”
Shortly after the university’s announcement, a #SaveClemsonXCTF group with alumni, students, family members and supporters was formed on Instagram and Twitter. A Change.org petition to spare the teams has been signed by more than 32,000 people.
“This decision protects one of the most diverse and decorated programs at Clemson University, with a majority-black student-athlete demographic,” the group said in a statement following the university’s decision. “For the first time in its fifty-year history, Title IX has been successfully applied toward the reinstatement of a men’s program, made possible through the bravery of our women’s program in its supporting counter-suit.”
In January, a complaint was filed with the Department of Education that alleged the program cuts were an act of illegal racial discrimination. Russell Dinkins, a former Princeton middle distance runner, has been working with track and cross country programs facing elimination. He helped Brown, Minnesota and William &Mary restore their men’s track and field or cross country programs.
Dinkins filed the complaint that stated Clemson was violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits recipients of federal funding from being discriminated against on the basis of race, color or national origin. A parent noted that Clemson may have a Title IX issue by cutting the men’s track program before Dinkins contacted lawyer Arthur Bryan of Bailey & Glasser about pursuing a potential case against Clemson.
Clemson was one of many athletic programs cutting teams and citing financial effects from the coronavirus pandemic. Facing budget shortfalls, non-revenue generating sports like swimming, diving, tennis, cross country and track have found themselves in the crosshairs of the cost-saving measures. A group working to save four men’s varsity teams at William & Mary was successful after a two-month campaign that included members of the women’s track and field program. Members of the women’s track and field team issued a letter to the university president, stating they would not compete until the men’s team was reinstated.
#SaveClemsonTrack released a video in December in its fight to preserve the program. The video noted that eliminating men’s track and field and cross country at Clemson would eliminate 67% of its Black athletes in non-revenue generating sports (soccer, baseball, tennis, golf, cross country and track and field).
Men’s track and field has been part of the Clemson athletic department since 1953.