Baseball and men’s gymnastics will still be eliminated at UC Berkeley next year, but women’s gymnastics and lacrosse will be preserved and rugby will not be demoted to a club sport, according to an announcement made today by the university.
“After a comprehensive, sport-by-sport review of the philanthropic commitments, unfortunately, it was determined that the pledges for baseball and men’s gymnastics fell short of the criteria provided to potential donors: sufficient funding to support team expenses for the next seven to 10 years and the presentation of a feasible plan for sustained financial independence,” read the press release.
“We are all greatly impressed by how our community organized itself in the attempt to help these five sports and the university,” said Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary. “We are delighted that, together, we have found a path that allows us to retain the two women’s teams and our rugby program without adding costs to the strained budgets of the university and Cal Athletics.”
“Sadly, the efforts did not meet these criteria insofar as baseball and men’s gymnastics are concerned,” he said. “Although the amount of money raised for these two programs is meaningful, the teams’ costs are also significant. Both programs would have needed to raise multiples of what they actually did raise to meet our criteria. In the context of both current and forecasted economic and financial conditions, we simply could not agree to short-term, stopgap measures.”
In September, UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced that the university would eliminate the baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse teams, and reclassify the men’s rugby team to “varsity club sport,” reducing the overall number of teams from 29 to 24. The teams were losing money, he said, and eliminating them would save the athletic department about $4 million a year.
The university, which has seen its state support greatly reduced in recent years, is trying to reduce its annual subsidy for athletics from $12 million now to $5 million in 2014.
After Birgeneau’s announcement, a group called Save Cal Sports sprang up and went into fundraising overdrive. It has received about $12 to $13 million in pledges so far, with much of the support going for the women’s teams. The rugby team has pledged to be self–sustaining. But the group did not get pledges sufficient enough to sustain the baseball team and men’s lacrosse.
The decision to retain the two women’s teams may stem from a late realization that Cal would be out of compliance with Title IX requirements if they were eliminated. According to a recent New York Times story, 40% of Cal’s 965 athletes in varsity programs are women, while 53% of the student body is female. If Cal went ahead with its plans to eliminate the five teams, it “will have to add 50 spots for women and eliminate 80 spots for men to meet Title IX requirements,” according to the Times. “That is in addition to the more than 100 male athletes already cut when men’s rugby, baseball and gymnastics were dropped as varsity sports, or about the equivalent of two football squads.”
Read Birgenau’s letter to the campus community.