Summit League Focused On Internal Cost Cutting While Acknowledging Some Schools May Cut Sports

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- As sports make their return from the COVID-19 pandemic it's clear they'll look a lot different, especially in college where schools across the country are dropping programs while conferences like the Mid-American cut their postseason tournaments in response to the financial strain.

After a meeting of their council of athletic directors and senior women's administrators, the Summit League is confident it can avoid most of that, while admitting some of it may be inevitable.

In it's first year the new Summit League offices in Sioux Falls already has a new permanent addition.

"We dedicated this display to the seniors, or the teams, the student athletes that lost their season." Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple says.

It's hardly the kind of celebration anyone expected to end the 2019-20 year.

"We started off having probably one of our better years. And then it just came crashing down on us." Douple says.

New territory is what the Summit League, along with all of college sports, face as they try to return from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What came out was we wanted to preserve, as much as we could at this point, our conference schedules." Douple says.

To that end, the league won't be cutting any of it's postseason tournaments, though some like baseball will go from four days to three. Instead there will be internal cost cutting measures such as eliminating on-site media days and league meetings, reducing travel parties and freezing salaries will be taken.

Ironically, the Summit's most lucrative postseason event, the basketball tournament, could be used to help ailing league members.

"Are there ways that we can help give some more money back to our institutions? I think it's more scrubbing our budget in the league office." Douple says.

Despite that, Douple says cuts could be on the way for sports at several schools.

"There might be cuts at one or two of our campuses but they were actually probably looked at even before the pandemic. I think you'll see one or two of our institutions add a sport shortly as well. So I think that all balances out here." Douple says.

Along with weighing expansion that includes Augustana, the rest of the focus is on game planning scenarios for an unpredictable season.

"There probably will be some inequities on the opening of campuses. That's going to be governed by institutions and the states that they're located." Douple says.

In the second part of our story tomorrow night we'll look at where the Summit League's expansion process is amid the pandemic, and how soon a decision on whether or not to invite Augustana might be coming.