After Men’s Track & Field Cut, Will CMU Football Still be FBS Eligible?

Central Michigan meets the FBS requirement for 16 hosted sports, but having only five men’s teams is an issue.

Central Michigan cut its men’s track & field team today, which should save itself $628,798 in projected long-term savings. This is the fifth MAC team cut in less than a week while schools watch their fiscal years end during a global health pandemic. On Thursday, Akron cut men’s cross country, men’s golf, and women’s tennis teams. On Friday, Bowling Green cut its baseball program — which leaves the MAC with just 10 baseball teams.

From CMU’s press release:

This decision directly impacts 36 student-athletes, which includes some student-athletes who also compete in cross country. Two full-time assistant positions also are being eliminated.

Scholarships for current men’s track and field student-athletes — including scholarships awarded to new students beginning in fall 2020 — will be honored for the duration of their CMU academic careers. Student-athletes who would like to join another institution’s roster will be released without penalty and are free to transfer immediately.

While CMU still has 16 total varsity teams to mean the bare minimum for the football program to be Football Bowl Subdivision-eligible, but it falls below another threshold. NCAA Division I Bylaw says that FBS-classified teams must have a minimum of six all-male sports or mixed teams, and a minimum of eight all-female teams.

Central is down to five men’s teams with Tuesday’s news. To stay FBS-eligible, CMU needs either a waiver from the NCAA, or a sixth men’s team. CMU athletic director spoke with the media more about the school’s decision and said that the two parties have been in contact for a while. What Alford’s selling is that CMU wouldn’t have cut men’s track without knowing that it’d have to apply for a waiver to keep its FBS classification. He’s also saying CMU wouldn’t have applied for a waiver if it didn’t already think the NCAA would give the thumbs up here.

“That waiver has been submitted. They meet weekly, and I anticipate an answer pretty quick.” (-CMU athletic director Mike Alford, Detroit Free Press)

CMU looks like it’s confident in this move, but there’s really no precedent for this. Maybe Central might be in the clear once the NCAA makes its decision, but that’s anybody’s guess at this point. If the NCAA says yes here, how many other schools will follow suit and cut sports just to apply for the same waiver? If the NCAA says no here, what will the Mid-American Conference’s response be?

When Akron and Bowling Green cut their respective sports, the schools came prepared with their vocal commitments to staying in the MAC. CMU’s prepared FAQ page didn’t mention the league’s name once.

MAC sports offered across its full-member schools. Click here to view the full table, which includes partial-membership schools.

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