Angry donors say ‘we’ll be canceling everything’ if Gophers sports are cut

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At first, he was in disbelief. Then, Joe Plencner was angry.

On Sept. 10 — the day the University of Minnesota announced it was shutting down its men’s track and field program — the former Gophers pole vaulter received solicitations through e-mail and regular mail from the Golden Gopher Fund. The athletics fundraising arm for his alma mater wanted a donation, even though the U was eliminating his sport.

“I e-mailed them and said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ’’ said Plencner, who competed for the Gophers from 2006-10. “It was tone-deaf.’’

Plencner said he will never give another dollar to the U if the Board of Regents approves a resolution to cut men’s track and field, men’s tennis and men’s gymnastics. Other supporters of those programs, including two who told the Star Tribune they have given more than $100,000 to Gophers athletics, also plan to stop donating and buying season tickets for football and other sports if the programs are dropped.

The Board of Regents is scheduled to vote Friday on a resolution to eliminate the sports at the end of the school year. The resolution would pass if seven of the 12 members vote in favor.

Watch: Live at 9:15 a.m. – U of M Board of Regents meeting

Athletic director Mark Coyle said the proposed cuts are needed because of Title IX compliance issues and financial challenges magnified by the pandemic. In his announcement, Coyle said he understood it was “devastating news’’ and recognized there would be a “ripple effect’’ on alumni, donors and others. “We did not make this decision lightly,’’ Coyle said.

Each of the sports has endowed scholarship funds and “enhancement funds’’ donated specifically for that team’s use. A U spokesman said Thursday if the scholarship funds can no longer be used for the purpose