Updated (see below) Cal’s baseball team was reinstated today as a varsity sport, following a fundraising drive that raised pledges of $9 million so far. The $9 million is short of the $10 million the university declared necessary to rescind the closure of Cal baseball, but university officials said today that they were confident the final sums would be raised.
In September, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced that five sports were being eliminated from the varsity roster — baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse and rugby. All of the sports have now been reinstated except for men’s gymnastics, which is urgently trying to raise $4 million.
The announced cuts, and the subsequent fundraising efforts, are part of the university’s goal of reducing institutional support for athletics to $5 million a year by 2014. The university is under severe budgetary pressures as state funding gets squeezed, a situation that will probably worsen this year.
Cal’s baseball team is currently ranked 13th in the country and starts a three-game road trip at the University of Arizona today.
We’ll have more coverage of the baseball decision following a series of press conferences scheduled for later today.
Update: Stu Gordon, the former Golden Bear pitcher who led the effort to save Cal baseball, said today that well over 1,000 people contributed to the fundraising effort. Gordon himself, now a lawyer, gave an initial $500,000 and topped it up with a further $50,000. He said 40 people had given over $50,000 in the drive, and a further 100 people had given between $25,000 and $50,000.
Gordon said Jeff Kent, the Cal player who went on to an all-star career in Major League Baseball, had given over $100,000. Controversial agent Scott Boras had given $50,000 because of his belief in the importance of talent flowing from Cal.
“It’s still our goal to get up to a $20 million endowment so Cal baseball can be self-supporting,” Gordon said. Gordon and the other supporters have also come forward with a raft of suggestions for raising the revenues from baseball at Cal, including looking at advertising on the outfield fences. Gordon said that Larry Baer, president of the San Francisco Giants, had been helpful in the discussions.