Old Dominion cuts wrestling, citing financial impact of coronavirus

Citing the expected budgetary impact of the coronavirus pandemic as a contributing factor, Old Dominion announced Thursday that it was cutting its wrestling program. The decision is effective immediately.

Old Dominion had sponsored wrestling as a varsity sport since the 1957-58 season.

"We are saddened to have to make this decision, but it's one that was made with the long-term best interest of the athletics program in mind," said Old Dominion athletic director Camden Wood Selig.

"Our decision became even more clear during this coronavirus crisis, which we know will have significant impact on future athletics budgets. This decision will better allow the remaining sports to compete at a national level."

The wrestling team currently has 32 athletes, including seven seniors. Those athletes with remaining eligibility can transfer immediately without penalty. Those who remain will retain their scholarships through the completion of their fourth academic year. Incoming freshmen who signed letters of intent will retain scholarships for the 2020-21 academic year if they enroll.

Among those on the current team was redshirt senior Sa'Derian Perry, who transferred to Old Dominion from Eastern Michigan two years ago after that school also cut its wrestling program.

Perry recently qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships for the third season in a row, among four ODU wrestlers who qualified this season, but did not get a chance to compete when the event was canceled along with all winter sports championships.

In addition to concerns about the pandemic, which Iowa State also cited earlier this week in reducing coaching salaries among other cost-cutting moves, Old Dominion said its decision to cut wrestling came after a six-month study of the athletic program. Performed by outside consultants, the study revealed ODU could save $1 million by eliminating a varsity sport.

Old Dominion was the only Conference USA school that still sponsored wrestling. The school joined Conference USA for the 2013-14 school year as its football program reclassified from FCS to FBS. The wrestling team competed as a member of the Mid-American Conference.

According to the most recent NCAA report on sport sponsorship, 70 schools sponsored Division I wrestling in the 2018-19 season, down from 86 a decade ago and 107 schools 25 years ago.

Old Dominion recently completed a football stadium project estimated at close to $70 million and paid for by private funding, athletic revenue and bond proceeds. The football team began playing in the 22,480-seat S.B. Ballard Stadium in the 2019 season, although home attendance dropped from 19,633 per game in its final season at Foreman Field to 18,234 last season.

The school will also add women's volleyball as a varsity sport in 2020-21. The addition of volleyball and elimination of wrestling leaves 16 varsity sports, the minimum necessary at the FBS level. Nine of those sports are women's sports and seven are men's sports.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, the school had to cut its athletic department budget of about $44 million by $842,000 as recently as the 2017-18 academic year to account for declining enrollment.