Can you have breaking news when the athletic department makes a decision two years ago and doesn’t tell anyone about it?
On Tuesday morning, to go along with their physical copy publishing schedule, the Marquette Wire published a news story on their website reporting that Marquette University is ending athletic scholarship aid to athletes on the men’s and women’s tennis teams as well as the men’s and women’s track and field teams by the start of the 2025-26 school year.
Go read the article for lots of quotes from athletic director Bill Scholl as well as deputy athletic director Mike Broeker to explain the reasons behind the decision making. This is their reporting and their story, and you should go read it. I do want to point out that the teams are not being cut, the athletes are just no longer receiving any scholarship aid for the pure reason of being athletes on the team and they are, as any Marquette student is, eligible for academic and general financial aid. The most notable item that I will port over here is that the tennis teams were told this was happening “close to two years ago,” while the track and field teams were only told of this “within the last few months.” In other words, this is not a new development on any level.
In fact, the writing has honestly probably been on the wall for a long time now. Part of GoMarquette.com is the website for the Blue and Gold Fund, the fundraising apparatus for providing the scholarship needs of the athletic department. The mission page of the B&G Fund section of the site has not been updated since 2019-20, which probably tells you a lot of things about a lot of things, but it does contain a very important note about what direction things were going in for Marquette.
By rule, based on the NCAA scholarship limits for the teams that Marquette sponsors, the Blue and Gold Fund is allowed to provide the financing for the equivalent of 136 full tuition scholarships as of the last time the website was updated.
The Blue and Gold Fund had the money to fund 96 scholarships.
40 possible scholarships were going unfunded.
I don’t think anyone is terribly shocked to read this information in light of the university deciding in 2021 that they were no longer going to provide athletic scholarship aid to multiple teams.
This is the point of the show where I drop in the link that is marked as “Donate Now” on the B&G Fund website as well as the link to the B&G Fund website section on GoMarquette.com as there are lots of links to run through under the heading “Ways To Give.”
We should also point out a wide majority of tennis and track & field athletes are paying at least partial tuition. Men’s tennis, men’s track & field, and women’s track & field are what the NCAA calls “equivalency” sports. In other words, the teams can hand out the equivalent of their scholarship limit. This is different than a head count sport, which women’s tennis is, where any single dollar of aid given to an athlete counts as 1 scholarship handed out, and you can’t exceed the limit. It doesn’t matter if that’s a full scholarship or not, every single athlete counts as one. For the equivalency sports, they have a pool of money that can be split up however the coaches see fit.
For men’s track & field, that limit is 12.6 scholarships. There are currently 40 men on Marquette’s roster.
For women’s track & field, that limit is 18 scholarships. There are currently 42 women on Marquette’s roster.
Women’s tennis is the different one, where they have a limit of eight student athletes who can receive aid, no matter how much aid they are receiving. There are currently 11 women on Marquette’s roster, so at least three of them are paying full tuition right this moment.
Marquette is, justifiably so, never going to tell us exactly how many athletes are receiving aid and how much aid all of them are receiving. But between the 40 full scholarship gap in B&G Fund offerings and the amount of scholarship money that the NCAA allows relative to the number of athletes on the team, I am a little bit curious: How much of a change is this really for Marquette?
This is going to affect the recruiting for these teams, so there is going to be a certain ceiling on the athletic capabilities of the players/runners/throwers that will be competing for Marquette in the future. With that said, purely because of the financial commitment involved in attending Marquette — full time tuition for the 2023-24 school year will be $47,690, and that does not include room & board — there already is a ceiling on the athletes that Marquette can recruit for any equivalency sport. Think about it this way: If you’re a really good high school athlete in Wisconsin, but your personal family finances are a little tight, and you’re being recruited by both Wisconsin and Marquette, and both offer you a one-quarter tuition scholarship, which one are you taking if everything else is even? By default, Wisconsin’s tuition cost to you is just the better financial option to you.
While no one is going to confuse this decision with good news, and you can easily view it as actively bad news, it’s not the worst news. Marquette is continuing to field the teams and support them financially in every other way than scholarship aid. As Bill Scholl pointed out to John Leuzzi in the Wire’s article, this is the least permanent way to impact the budget of the athletic department. It’s hard to re-grow the budget for track & field travel or for tennis coaches once you’ve cut that money from your yearly planning. It’s much easier to eventually have enough Blue and Gold Fund money on hand to fund scholarships for these four teams again in the future.