As part of its response to budgetary issues necessitating expenditure reductions of $8.8 million for the next fiscal year, the University of Maine will suspend its volleyball and men’s soccer programs, effective June 30, 2009.Individual UMaine units — including the athletics department — are responsible for developing budget reductions accounting for $7 million of the total, for annual budgets beginning July 1.The athletics department’s share of that cut is $253,000, an amount based on its allocation of the university’s base budget.On top of that cut, the athletics department’s budget is adversely affected by other economy-related factors, including endowment losses, reduced annual gifts, declines in ticket sales, and lower-than-expected merchandise receipts and otherexternally generated revenues. Those factors will create shortfalls totaling another $618,000 in the upcoming fiscal year. All factors combined create an overall athletics department budget shortfall of $871,000 for the next year.The soccer and volleyball program suspensions will result in a projected first-year saving of approximately $600,000 and eventual ongoing annual savings of more than $900,000. The rest of the first-year budget reduction total ($271,000) will be metthrough internal revenue-generating and cost-saving procedures, such as schedule reductions, guarantee games and other adjustments.”This is the option of last resort,” says Athletic Director Blake James. “We place a high value on the opportunities that all of our sports create for our student-athletes and we recognize the commitment of coaches, support staff and fans. We havetaken these steps after exhausting every feasible option for managing these unprecedented budget challenges.”UMaine will honor its scholarship commitments to current volleyball and soccer student-athletes who wish to continue work toward a UMaine degree. Recruited scholarship student-athletes who have signed a National Letter of Intent to play one of thesesports will be eligible for one year of scholarship funding if they choose to attend UMaine. Per NCAA guidelines related to discontinued sports, UMaine will grant any institution permission to contact an affected student-athlete by circulating an all-inclusive transfer release message to NCAA member institutions. In addition, NCAAguidelines allow student-athletes who transfer to be immediately eligible for financial aid, practice and competition provided they meet all academic requirements and are not under disciplinary suspension.In 2008-2009, the Black Bear men’s soccer had 26 players on its roster: the volleyball team had 15. Soccer provided 7.5 scholarships: volleyball, 12. The savings will result from those scholarship budget lines, in addition to operating costs(coaches’ salaries, recruiting expenses, travel expenses and other miscellaneous expenditures). Each team had one head coach and one assistant coach.”Like every institution, business and family, UMaine is faced with very significant financial challenges that require substantial responses,” says UMaine President Robert Kennedy. “We regret the impact of this move on those individuals, especiallyour students, who are affected by this decision.”James says that the decision follows his review of all Black Bear sports, looking carefully at issues such as gender equity and requirements related to NCAA and conference membership. Seventeen Black Bear programs remain following the suspension ofthese two sports.