September 29, 2010
After more than a year of severe budget cuts across the campus, the University of California Berkeley announced it would eliminate five of its intercollegiate sports programs in 2011-12.
According to The New York Times, Sandy Barbour, Cal's athletic director, and Chancellor Robert Birgeneau made a painful and difficult decision to cut baseball, men's and women's gymnastics, women's lacrosse and men's rugby. While the first four teams mentioned will be completely eliminated, the men's rugby team will be designated a varsity club sport, which means that the team can continue to play and compete on campus as long as it is financially self-sustaining.
Barbour told the UC Berkeley News Center, "Cal Athletics is not immune to the effects of the recession, and the financial realities affecting this campus." After 500 staff layoffs with more expected, a two-year hiring freeze and skyrocketing tuition fees for students, many have called for the university to cut back on its $12 million a year in subsidies for the athletics program.
The cuts will save an estimated $4 million a year and is expected to hold down future costs. According to campus officials, the goal is to reduce campus budget support for the athletics program to around $5 million by 2014. In 2008-2009, the university gave the department $7.7 million to subsidize its operating budget. The campus also loaned the department $5.8 million.
Dropping the four teams will affect five head coaches, eight assistant coaches and 163 students-athletes. Chancellor Birgeneau promised to honor all existing scholarships and assist those who wish to transfer to other schools in order to pursue their athletic careers.
The announcement was a shock to many former Cal athletes. According to SF Gate, Berkeley graduate and Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin expressed her disappointment via Twitter: "...If it wasn't for my time as a student-athlete at UC Berkeley, I wouldn't have earned my 11 Olympic medals." Jeff Kent, who played at Cal and was the National League MVP with the Giants in 2000, also told Mercury News, "I was speechless... I came from that program, and there's absolutely no way in the world I'd be sitting where I am now if it wasn't for that program." Cal has had a baseball program since 1892.
According to the UC Berkeley News Center, decisions on which teams to cut were based not only on financial impact and history of competitive success, but also compliance with Title IX requirements for gender equity. As reported by SF Gate, some cite the change to men's rugby as evidence of this--despite being more than a century old and winning 25 national championships since 1980, the team of 61 men was still cut. In total, 118 male and 45 female athletes were affected.
UC Berkeley News Center reported that the remaining 24 intercollegiate squads are safe as no other teams will be cut. The New York Times added that Chancellor Birgeneau confirmed the university's commitment to student-athletes and their communities in a statement saying, "Although the program has been reduced in size, our commitment to Cal athletics has not."
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"Cal-Berkeley Cuts 5 Athletic Programs," NYTimes.com, September 28, 2010, Joe Drape
"Cal chops five varsity sports," mercurynews.com, September 29, 2010, Jeff Faraudo
"Cal cuts sports: baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse," SFGate.com, September 29, 2010, John Crumpacker
"On a sad day for Golden Bears, 4 teams are cut, while rugby survives as 'varsity club' squad," berkeley.edu, September 29, 2010