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Conferences ask NCAA for relief amid budget crunch

In a sign of the growing financial crisis beginning to slam college athletics in the wake of COVID-19, commissioners of five mid and low major football-playing conferences, including the Mountain West, have asked the NCAA to waive some of its rules in order to save money.

The letter was sent to NCAA President Mark Emmert from the commissioners of the MWC, American Athletic, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences as well as Conference USA on behalf of 350 schools competing on the Division I level.

Hawaii competes in the MWC in football while most of its other sports are in the Big West Conference.

According to Yahoo Sports, which obtained a copy of the letter, the conferences seek “temporary relief from several regulatory requirements for a period of up to four years” in order to provide “short-term relief.”

Approval by the NCAA would open the way for schools to take several drastic actions including cutting sports teams, reducing scholarships or lowering the number of games they play without losing their Division I status, should they choose.

To be a Division I member, schools are required to sponsor at least 16 varsity sports and meet minimum requirements for awarding scholarships and games played. In addition, schools must average at least 15,000 in attendance for Football Bowl Subdivision membership.

The letter came to light as at least two schools, Cincinnati and Old Dominion, this week have announced they will be dropping a sport each. Several other schools, including Louisville, Washington State and Wake Forest, have announced that administrators and coaches will be taking voluntary or mandatory salary cuts. Wisconsin announced it would not be funding 2020-21 scholarships for seniors who had their spring sports seasons canceled.

UH athletic director David Matlin said,”I believe during these unprecedented times that greater flexibility will be needed to enable us to provide for our student athletes.”

The NCAA recently announced that it was significantly reducing its disbursements to member schools after canceling its men’s basketball tournament, the association’s biggest money maker.

“We have been working closely with our membership for the past few weeks developing potential options to address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement.

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