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D1 School May Fold Its Entire Athletic Department

A UC Riverside basketball player with the ball against UCLA.

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: Steven Jones #10 of the UC Riverside Highlanders dribbles the ball in game with the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on December 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Given the uncertain financial situation for many universities and colleges, we've seen athletic departments around the country take a big hit. A number of prominent schools like Stanford have been forced to cut programs. At the end of the day, no Division I athletic department may wind up more negatively impacted than UC Riverside.

Where some schools have cut certain programs to try and reduce costs, UC Riverside is considering folding the entire Highlanders athletic department. That would boot 15 full Division I teams, a really tough blow to so many athletes, coaches, and staffers at the school. The potential decision is slightly less surprising given the state of finances at the school.

UC Riverside athletics is the most heavily subsidized athletics department in the country, according to ESPN. The school contributes $18.7 million in institutional support. When combined with $2.3 million in annual student fees, over 90-percent of the department's budget comes from those two sources.

The Highlanders currently sponsor 15 sports. On the men's side, the school offers baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, and track & field. The school offers women's basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, ennis, track & field, and volleyball.

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Athletic director Tamica Smith-Jones finds herself arguing for the continued existence of her entire department, and her job. It would also make UC Riverside a unique school among its Big West and California rivals: it would be the only one without sports to offer.

"[Elimination] would put us in the category as the only University of California school to not have sports," Smith-Jones told ESPN. "I don't think that's something we want to be known for."

Per the report, the school is expected to take a $32 million hit in loss of state funds. Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox says he's prepared to make "very difficult decisions," with scrapping athletics as one that is currently on the table. Smith-Jones has proposed increasing the student fee—something that the school hasn't done in decades—bringing recreational programs under its umbrella, and is looking at other options to keep her department solvent. A decision by UCR is expected by the end of the year.

[ESPN]