MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- University of Minnesota coaches implored school officials on Tuesday to delay a reorganization of university athletics that could mean elimination of some programs.
The head coaches in every sport signed a letter to the Board of Regents and administration in reaction to recent reports that three programs would be cut to solve a $21 million deficit in the athletics programs. The coaches said they support a merger of the men's and women's departments, an option the university is considering.
Several coaches also said they were frustrated because they felt the administration has kept them in the dark during its decision-making process.
John Roethlisberger, a two-time Olympian and former Gophers gymnast, joined the coaches at a news conference and grew emotional as he pleaded for an extension. His father, Fred, coaches men's gymnastics, a successful but money-losing program reported to be at risk.
"I really hope we can find a way," John Roethlisberger said. "Give us some more time to find other solutions."
University President Mark Yudof has said it's likely that some sports will be cut.
The university is scheduled to release its plan to address the $21 million budget deficit in athletics on Wednesday.
Tonya Moten Brown, the university vice president who oversees athletics and was finalizing that plan Tuesday, released a statement that gave no assurances to the coaches.
"We have a financial responsibility and obligation to spend within our means, not just in athletics but throughout the university," she said.
The university has heard from all sides in making its plan, and tough choices are necessary for "a more stable future" in university athletics, Brown said.
The coaches said they had a good meeting with Brown on Jan. 30, but hadn't heard from the administration since.
"I'm frustrated we didn't continue that discussion," Fred Roethlisberger said. "It's the greatest meeting I've been at in 30 years here. It just ended and it never picked up again."
Administrators cite growing financial losses in athletics. Intercollegiate sports get more than $10 million a year in subsidies from the university's central administration.
Only three sports -- football, men's hockey and men's basketball -- turned a profit in 2000-2001, according to the university's federal expense report. The three programs reported to be at risk lost nearly $900,000.
Men's tennis coach David Geatz said that coaches are willing to make sacrifices to avoid elimination of any programs.
"If I have to do more in my fund-raising efforts, if I can help gymnastics endow a scholarship, if I have to take a budget cut, whatever it takes," he said. "It's like a big family. I don't want to kick my brother out of the house."
Men's hockey coach Don Lucia said dropping a sport would be especially bad after the school won NCAA championships this year in hockey and wrestling.
"It shows you how effective and well-run our departments are," he said.
Coaches prefer merging men's and women's athletics and letting the new leadership decide how to solve the financial problems.
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