Men’s gymnastics saved at UC Berkeley

Cal junior Kyle Bunthuwong on the rings/Photo: GoldenBearSports.com

Update 5 p.m. Some further details about the saving of men’s gymnastics emerged at today’s press conference. The team currently operates with 4.7 scholarships split among nine athletes. Graduating seniors account for 1.7 of those, so the team will operate with 3.0 scholarships next year. Fundraising above the $2.5 million could be used to restore scholarships incrementally.

Athletic Director Sandy Barbour responded to repeated questions about the September cuts announcements by asserting that it would have been impossible to anticipate the fundraising reaction.

“The response by our community is unprecedented,” she said. “I don’t think we could have envisioned this kind of support.”

Barbour said many other universities had observed the Cal process with interest. “There are a lot of schools that are struggling,” she said.

Dan Mogulof, Director of External Affairs for the university, said that the announced cuts and the response had in fact put the athletic program in a stronger position.

“[The community] responded in an unprecedented way to an unprecedented challenge in a way that was eye-opening,” he said. “As a result, we’re in much better shape with a much better foundation.”

Back to original Men’s gymnastics, the final sport facing the axe at Cal, has been spared thanks to supporters raising $2.5 million.

The men’s team had been set a goal of $4 million to save the team, the university announced today that the $2.5 million raised will support the team for seven to 10 years, along with reductions to reduce annual operating expenses. Until the larger fundraising goal is met, the team will be able to meet scholarship commitments to current athletes but athletic scholarship aid for new athletes will be restricted.

Under first-year coach Tim McNeill, the Golden Bears placed fourth in last month’s NCAA championships. Cal has finished in the top five nationally 20 times since 1959.

“Words cannot even begin to express how happy I am that the Cal men’s gymnastics team has been reinstated,” McNeill said in the release detailing the news today. “I’m so thankful for the outpouring of support we received, from Cal’s athletic department, the Chancellor, our incredible alumni and the team members’ parents who worked around the clock to make this happen. This result would not have been possible if not for the current team’s never-give-up attitude. They held their heads high all year and have not only inspired me, but the entire gymnastics community. This last year was our 99th season, and I’m absolutely elated that we will be here to see our 100th season and beyond.”

In September, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau had announced that the university would eliminate five sports from the varsity roster: men’s and women’s gymnastics, baseball, rugby and women’s lacrosse. All five have now been reinstated following vigorous fundraising campaigns by supporters.

Birgeneau said today that the university was still on track to meet its target of capping support to intercollegiate athletics to $5 million by 2014.

The university is holding a press conference on the gymnastics decision at 4:30 p.m. today. Berkeleyside will update this story following the conference.

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