Cincinnati drops men's soccer program amid 'widespread uncertainty'

Citing "profound challenges and widespread uncertainty" because of the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Cincinnati announced Tuesday that it is discontinuing its men's soccer program.

The Bearcats have been competing in men's soccer since 1973.

"This was a difficult decision, but one made with the long-term interests of UC Athletics at the forefront," Cincinnati athletic director John Cunningham said in a statement. "During this time of profound challenges and widespread uncertainty, I have engaged in a comprehensive and thorough review of UC's sport offerings and long-term budget implications of supporting the number of student-athletes currently at UC. Based on this review, and in consultation with President [Neville] Pinto and other University leaders, UC Athletics will no longer sponsor a men's soccer program."

The Bearcats reached the NCAA tournament in 2003 and 2006. Following a 5-11-1 record in 2019, longtime coach Hylton Dayes resigned in March after 19 seasons at the school.

According to its most recent NCAA financial report in 2019, the men's soccer program had operating losses of $726,498.

"This is something they might have done, even without the pandemic," American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN's The Paul Finebaum Show on Tuesday. "Their soccer program was a concern to them. They wanted to devote more resources to other sports. ... They felt they could do more if they didn't have soccer."

Cunningham said the school would honor scholarships for men's soccer student-athletes for the duration of their academic careers. He said student-athletes would be allowed to transfer without penalty.

"Our men's soccer student-athletes have been outstanding representatives of the University in the classroom and on the field," Cunningham said. "They may not fully understand this decision, but I want them to know they were truly and conscientiously considered during my deliberations about the future of UC Athletics. We are making this decision now to enable our men's soccer student-athletes to have an opportunity to play at another institution if they choose to do so."

Cincinnati offered 19 sports before cutting men's soccer.

According to the 2019 NCAA financial report, Cincinnati spent about $68.8 million on athletics. About 43 percent of that money came from "direct institutional support," such as tuition, tuition waivers and endowments not earmarked specifically for athletics.