The moves, the school said, will help offset an estimated $200 million budget shortfall for the entire university. GW is the first Division I school in the D.C. metro area to announce such cuts, which have become more widespread nationally since the health crisis forced shutdowns and impacted university revenue.
In the region, Old Dominion (wrestling) and Hampton (men’s and women’s golf) have eliminated teams. In early July, Stanford, which boasts one of the most successful athletic programs in the nation, cut 11 varsity programs.
“We needed to optimize our available resources and allocate them appropriately to build and sustain excellence in athletics,” George Washington University said in a written statement signed by four officials, including GW President Thomas J. LeBlanc and Director of Athletics Tanya Vogel. “By supporting fewer programs, we will be better equipped.”
GW said additional measures could become necessary if the pandemic and the “financial impact worsen.”
The university said it considered many options to avoid cuts, including increasing ticket sales, philanthropic support and corporate sponsorship. “However, it is impossible for these areas to produce the funding necessary to achieve the long-term success that our students, alumni, and supporters deserve,” the statement said.
The impacted athletes were informed ahead of the announcement, the university said, and “provided there is suitable student interest and self-sustaining financial support that ensures health, safety and well-being, we will support these programs in their transition to club sports.”
GW said it would honor scholarships through graduation and support any athlete who chooses to transfer. Coaching contracts will be honored, the university said.
The cuts reduce the school’s number of teams to 20. Without a football program, men’s and women’s basketball are the most popular teams on the Foggy Bottom campus.
Between 2011 and 2016, the men’s tennis team won five Atlantic 10 Conference championships and qualified for the NCAA tournament. The women’s water polo team this spring produced its first all-American, Alana Ponce, who earned honorable mention honors. The men’s indoor track team finished last among 10 teams at the A-10 championship this year.