Commissioners from the Group of 5 conferences have submitted a waiver request to the NCAA that, if granted, will lead to significant sports cuts.
The Daily News has learned from multiple sources that a request is on the table asking for relief on a number of requirements to maintain Division-I status from conferences including Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, American Athletic Conference and the Sun Belt Conference.
At the forefront of this request, per sources, is to reduce the minimum number of required team programs from 16 to 14, or potentially as few as 12.
The blanket set of waiver requests submitted also includes a change in football scheduling for 2020, a reduction in the minimum standard of games played per sport, an adjustment in cost of attendance and scholarships requirements.
Football schedules for 2020 could be adjusted by limiting conference games to only divisional play until the league’s championships.
For example, Conference USA East Division opponents would only play within the East and the West Division would play the West. Division opponents would have home-and-home games with the closest opponents geographically to reduce travel costs.
Other regulatory requirement changes would be the number of FCS opponents that can count toward bowl eligibility resumes from one game to two. Western Kentucky’s Sept. 5 home opener against UT-Chattanooga is the only FCS opponent on its 2020 schedule.
Under the waiver request, the current average attendance to maintain FBS status of 15,000 fans per football game once every two years would also be reduced. The request also asks for a reduction of the minimum amount of scholarship dollars be reduced from the current requirement of $4 million.
Pete Thamel tweeted Tuesday that Yahoo Sports has obtained the letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert asking for “temporary relief from several regulatory (NCAA) requirements for a period of up to 4 years.”
This relief would also reduce the minimum number of games played per sport, which will mostly effect future nonconference schedules in non-revenue sports.
WKU officials have not yet announced a plan for budget cuts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that shut down college sports on March 12. A WKU Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for Friday afternoon where the first steps are likely to be discussed.
The NCAA last month announced it is distributing less money to member institutions this year from its projected $600 million to just $225 million issued to D-I schools.
When the NCAA voted on March 30 to allow spring sports athletes to maintain their 2020 eligibility status for 2021, it added another strain on athletic budgets without additional scholarship funding available.
The waiver request that Group of 5 commissioners are submitting would aid those adjustments.
WKU’s current athletic budget is $23 million, which ranks 12th of the 14 member schools in Conference USA. Since 2012, WKU athletics has had $6 million in total budget reductions, which has included the elimination of men’s tennis and the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs.
— Follow WKU athletics beat writer Elliott Pratt on Twitter @EPrattBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.