Forget getting hot come tourney time.
If UNM’s baseball, softball or women’s soccer teams want to snag the Mountain West Conference’s automatic bids into NCAA Tournament fields for the 2020-21 academic year, they better take care of business in the regular season.
Oh, and those regular seasons for most sports this coming season are about to get a lot shorter, too, including baseball and softball series now being required to play doubleheaders in league play to cut a day of travel for every series of the season (from three days down to two).
The MWC Board of Directors, a group comprised of university presidents, announced on Monday a lengthy list of one-time (at least) changes for 2020-21 that are aimed at cost cutting for the 11 full members and 12 football-playing members of the league due to what is expected to be a multi-year financial hit for all of college athletics due to COVID-19 related matters.
Maybe most visible to fans will be the elimination of conference tournaments for baseball, softball and women’s soccer.
But that was hardly the only move the league made.
“The focus of this effort has been to protect opportunities for student-athletes and to maintain the intercollegiate athletics offerings at each member institution which are so integral to the fabric of the respective campuses,” MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a news release sent out by the league office.
In layman’s terms, schools had to find cuts — lots of them — to avoid cutting sports due to the money being lost now and projected revenue shortfalls for the year ahead.
Only football and men’s and women’s basketball seem to have avoided major shifts for the coming year.
Here is a rundown of cost-cutting measures the league announced Monday that is aimed at helping all members to varying degrees:
■ The Mountain West conference office, based in Colorado Springs, will cut its operating budget by 18%; “diminish” staff travel to regular-season games, various conventions and professional development seminars; and freeze all staff salaries for a year.
■ Officiating fees for all sports are frozen.
■ All coaching retreats and in-person conferences will be held virtually for the next year.
■ Football and men’s basketball in-person media conference events will be altered (no other sports regularly have in-person media conferences).
■ A reduction in the number of games or competitions in all sports other than football and basketball will take place, though specifics haven’t been determined.
■ Volleyball will use a 16-match, modified double-round robin schedule.
■ Conference series for baseball and softball will be cut from three-day series to two and will now include one doubleheader and one day with a single game (details on possible alterations to the number of innings allowed in doubleheaders is still unclear).
■ There will be no baseball, tennis or soccer conference tournaments.
■ The league’s swimming and diving championship will shift to a MWC site (it was held in Minnesota this past season in February)
■ Indoor track and men’s and women’s golf tournaments will be reduced from three to two days.
■ The outdoor track championship will drop from four to three days.
BACK TO CAMPUS: The league-wide suspension of in-person team activities was lifted Monday, aligned with the NCAA allowing a return to campus of college athletes for voluntary in-person workouts.
Member schools now have the ball in their court for when to return athletes to campus, and UNM is not yet in a position to announce when that will be.
STOKES: The new “Executive Committee” for the MWC Board of Directors was named on Monday for the two-year term of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years.
San Jose State President Mary Papazian will chair the Board of Directors with an executive committee including UNM President Garnett Stokes as vice chair and outgoing chair Utah State President Noelle Cockett.