PHOENIX — Up and down the Pac-10 conference, athletic departments are feeling the economic pinch.
Washington is cutting its men's and women's swim teams.
Stanford will chop $1.8 million from its athletic department budget this year, and $3.3 million next year, after its endowment lost about a fifth of its value, and UCLA's budget will take a $1.5 million to $2 million hit.
Oregon State may cut sports if it can't raise more money from donors. Arizona State's coaches are taking unpaid furloughs.
The struggling economy has been the main topic of conversation, in board rooms and at cocktail receptions, during the annual spring meetings of Pac-10 athletic directors and coaches at a local resort.
"I've been talking about this with my colleagues for the last six months, knowing that the pain was going to be imminent in a lot of ways," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "I don't believe that most knew what the actual impacts were going to be on their programs until they started to get into the discussions with their peers."
The conference office in Walnut Creek is scrimping by reducing staff travel to the NCAA men's basketball tournament and making other budget trims.
"We've had cost-cutting efforts the last 10 years," said commissioner Tom Hansen, who is retiring this summer. "But we've never had the challenges" posed by this economy.
The effects of the fledgling economy haven't escaped Cal, either. A hiring freeze has left the school's athletic department understaffed, but it's also saved close to $1 million. Some coaches and staff have raised their hand for voluntary furloughs. Cal has also cut down the size of its travel party for some sports and has been experimenting with different ways to trim printing costs, such as using online media guides.
"We're doing all the same things that just about everybody else is doing," Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said. "We're all being impacted in terms of our revenue streams. In terms of budgeting, we're being appropriately conservative in forecasting our revenues and that's impacting our ability to spend money."
Barbour said fundraising, which is a major chunk of Cal's revenue, began the fiscal year "significantly behind pace" but is beginning to catch up.
The hiring freeze has made the biggest impact. Barbour said it's similar to other schools cutting staff.
"You can say we've cut positions, too," she said, adding that the department has had to halt all merit increases as well.
One piece of good news out of Berkeley: Barbour said there are no imminent plans to cut programs.
"I think that would be absolutely down the road, if this isn't going to turn and the industry as we know it has changed and we have to change along with it," Barbour said. "We're facing some pretty serious economic issues as an institution. It would be nave of me and certainly unwise to maintain that it's completely off the table. But it's not something that is in our focus right now. It's not on the horizon."
At some schools, there's even talk of scrapping the longtime — and expensive — practice of quartering football teams at a local hotel on the night before home games. Coaches have long insisted they need to sequester their players to avoid "distractions" — an argument that may carry little weight in these times.
Meanwhile, Stanford's athletic endowment dropped to $410 million from $520 million, athletic director Bob Bowlsby said. Stanford has one of the nation's biggest athletic departments with 35 varsity sports — 19 for women, 15 for men and one coed squad.
"I really think you're going to see a lot of men's Olympic sports, and probably women's too, go away in the next two or three years," Bowlsby said.
Despite the downturn, one sector of the college sports economy is prospering. Elite football and men's basketball coaches still command top dollar.
Arizona last month gave men's basketball coach Sean Miller a five-year contract that pays him a base salary of $2 million per year plus a $1 million signing bonus.
The Wildcats basketball program generates between $16 million and $18 million per year.
"People see this and say, 'Wait a minute, why couldn't you go out and hire a less-experienced, less-expensive coach?'"" athletic director Jim Livengood said. "Well, we can't afford to take that chance."
Staff writer Jonathan Okanes contributed to this report.