5 Big Ten universities fail to provide varsity men's soccer programs
However, only seven universities in the Big Ten field varsity men’s soccer teams.
Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska do not participate at the varsity level.
Consequently, all seven teams play in the Big Ten Tournament in November. The regular season conference champion earns a bye.
Sources from each of the five institutions said they don’t expect changes in that format anytime soon, despite revenues from the Big Ten Network.
Purdue, for example, has never fielded a varsity team.
Tom Schott, Purdue associate athletics director, said he thinks the Boilers have, other than or the same as Northwestern, the fewest sports of any Big Ten athletic department.
He said when Morgan Burke became athletics director in 1993, Purdue was not at the NCAA allotment in all sports. While not explicitly referencing Title IX, it is a factor, he said.
“We would love to have more programs, but obviously financial considerations have to be taken into effect,” he said. “We very much understand the popularity of men’s soccer. To add a men’s sport, we’d have to add a women’s sport. While we’d love to and probably will at some point, men’s soccer certainly is one we would consider.”
Instead, the Boilers have upgraded current facilities.
“We had to make sure we take care of the sports we have,” Schott said.
He said Purdue has one of the smaller football stadiums, and the university has “undergone massive and major facility upgrades the last 15, 20 years that have taken a lot of our resources.”
“We are at the low end in the Big Ten,” he said. “That hurts us nationally in the Director’s Cup. Obviously, Indiana has a tremendous program. It would be a great and natural rivalry. Hopefully, that day will come at some point.”
IU Coach Todd Yeagley agreed and said he would love to see more conference schools add the sport.
However, he is taking advantage of the current situation by playing regional rivals each season. It allows for balance and quality midweek opponents, he said.
“We certainly enjoy the current format,” Yeagley said.
Nebraska’s situation is unique, as the Huskers joined the Big Ten on July 1, 2011. Their former conference, the Big 12, had no men’s soccer teams.
“In order to comply with Title IX, if we added a men’s soccer team we would undoubtedly have to add a couple of women’s sports,” Huskers Athletic Director Tom Osborne said in an email. “We are not in a financial position to do so at the present time.”
Minnesota Director of Athletic Communications Garry Bowman said in an email that by adding a men’s sport, the university’s Title IX numbers would “move out of balance.”
The Gophers have all the same men’s varsity sports as IU except hockey and gymnastics.
Bowman said gymnastics has “been here a long time. It’s a traditional sport that we’ve had here.”
University of Iowa Director of Athletic Communications Steve Roe was succinct.
“At this time we have no plans to increase the number of sports,” he wrote in an email.
A November 2008 story from the Daily Illini newspaper quoted University of Illinois Assistant Athletics Director Kent Brown.
“There’s no question that Title IX plays a part in the status of all varsity sports,” he said in the article. “At this point there are no plans to add a men’s sport, and Title IX does play a part in that.”
That story hasn’t changed, he said.
“We’re continually reviewing the varsity sports that we offer,” Brown said. “If we are to add a sport at this point, I would assume it would be a women’s sport. If we were to add a men’s sport, we’d have to add a women’s sport. In today’s economic climate, when you start adding sports, you’re talking about a significant jump in your budget. It’s difficult to add a sport unless there would be a situation kind of like at Penn State in regard to men’s hockey.”
Brown said Illinois has not added a varsity men’s sport for decades.
Revenue from the Big Ten Network, about $7 million per school in 2009-10, cannot be counted on to fund new sports.
“Any time there’s additional revenue, like any institution in the Big Ten, there’s a priority list of projects that need to be completed,” Brown said. “We all feel very comfortable in the number of sports that we offer at the varsity level. It just does not seem to be a prudent economic move to add another male sport considering what we’re offering right now.”
The Hoosiers’ path to a regular-season conference championship remains at six Big Ten foes.