News

'Heartbreaking' but 'imperative': Stanford to cut nearly a third of its varsity sport teams

20 support staff will lose their jobs as a result of cost-saving decision

Justin Kang helped Stanford win the title of the Western Conference fencing championships on Jan. 11. Fencing is one of 11 sports that the university will cut after the 2020-21 season. Courtesy Casey Valentine/ISIPhotos.com.

After the 2020-21 season, Stanford University will no longer have varsity fencing, field hockey, synchronized swimming or wrestling teams.

They are among the 11 varsity sports the university is eliminating to save money in the face of a growing deficit in the athletics budget and looming cuts due to the pandemic.

Stanford announced the decision on Wednesday, July 8, first over Zoom to the more than 200 student-athletes and 22 coaches from the affected teams: men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men's rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball and wrestling. The teams will be able to compete for a final time this year — if athletic events are allowed. Twenty staff members will lose their jobs as a result of the cuts.

In an open letter, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Director of Athletics Bernard Muir called the decision "heartbreaking" but necessary.

"We felt it was imperative to confront the financial challenge before it worsened, to undertake a deliberate and collaborative decision-making process with our Board of Trustees and campus leadership, and to exhaust all alternatives before making profound changes in our programs, especially during this difficult time," they wrote.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

The Board and athletics executive team unanimously supported the decision, according to the university.

Stanford currently offers 36 varsity sports, more than nearly every other Division I college in the country, the university said. This is no longer sustainable, Tessier-Lavigne, Drell and Muir wrote, particularly in light of a structural deficit in the athletics department that predated the coronavirus shutdown. Without cutting the 11 sports, Stanford forecasted a "best-case scenario" of a $25-million deficit for athletics in 2021, including the effects of COVID-19, and a cumulative shortfall of nearly $70 million over the next three years. These deficits could deepen if the 2020-21 sports season is suspended or changed due to the coronavirus.

Permanently sustaining the 11 teams at a varsity level would cost more than $200 million, the university said.

The university looked into alternatives, including ticket sales, broadcast revenue, university funding, philanthropic support and operating budget reductions, but "found them insufficient to meet the magnitude of the financial challenge before us."

The entire athletics executive team and several head coaches, including the head football and basketball coaches, have already taken voluntary pay reductions.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

"While Stanford may be perceived to have limitless resources, the truth is that we do not," Tessier-Lavigne, Drell and Muir wrote. "In general, athletics has been a self-sustaining entity on our campus, and we are striving to preserve that model in a time when budgetary support for our academic mission is already under significant stress."

Meanwhile, academic and administrative departments across the university are planning budget cuts of up to 10%.

Women's sailing is among the 11 sports Stanford University will cut from its athletics department after the 2020-21 season. Courtesy Stanford Athletics.

The primary alternative to ending the 11 sports would require "broad and deep" cuts for all 36 varsity sports, which would include eliminating scholarships and negatively impact Stanford's ability to hire high-quality coaches and staff.

"After considering the effects of this model, we determined that operating our varsity athletics programs in this manner would be antithetical to Stanford's values and our determination to be excellent in all that we do," Tessier-Lavigne, Drell and Muir wrote.

Criteria used to select the 11 teams included: potential expense savings, sponsorship of the sport at the NCAA Division I level (of the 11, six are not NCAA-sponsored), local and national fan interest in the sport, history of the sport at Stanford and impact on gender equity, Title IX compliance and diversity.

Stanford will honor all existing athletics scholarship commitments to the affected student-athletes throughout their undergraduate years. The contracts of affected coaches will be honored and any support staff who are losing their jobs will be provided with severance pay.

All of the affected sports will be able to transition to club status after the 2020-21 season, "but will need to do so in a financially self-sustaining manner that ensures the safety and well-being of the participants," the university leaders said.

More information about the decision is available at this university Q&A.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

'Heartbreaking' but 'imperative': Stanford to cut nearly a third of its varsity sport teams

20 support staff will lose their jobs as a result of cost-saving decision

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 9, 2020, 10:42 am

After the 2020-21 season, Stanford University will no longer have varsity fencing, field hockey, synchronized swimming or wrestling teams.

They are among the 11 varsity sports the university is eliminating to save money in the face of a growing deficit in the athletics budget and looming cuts due to the pandemic.

Stanford announced the decision on Wednesday, July 8, first over Zoom to the more than 200 student-athletes and 22 coaches from the affected teams: men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men's rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball and wrestling. The teams will be able to compete for a final time this year — if athletic events are allowed. Twenty staff members will lose their jobs as a result of the cuts.

In an open letter, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Director of Athletics Bernard Muir called the decision "heartbreaking" but necessary.

"We felt it was imperative to confront the financial challenge before it worsened, to undertake a deliberate and collaborative decision-making process with our Board of Trustees and campus leadership, and to exhaust all alternatives before making profound changes in our programs, especially during this difficult time," they wrote.

The Board and athletics executive team unanimously supported the decision, according to the university.

Stanford currently offers 36 varsity sports, more than nearly every other Division I college in the country, the university said. This is no longer sustainable, Tessier-Lavigne, Drell and Muir wrote, particularly in light of a structural deficit in the athletics department that predated the coronavirus shutdown. Without cutting the 11 sports, Stanford forecasted a "best-case scenario" of a $25-million deficit for athletics in 2021, including the effects of COVID-19, and a cumulative shortfall of nearly $70 million over the next three years. These deficits could deepen if the 2020-21 sports season is suspended or changed due to the coronavirus.

Permanently sustaining the 11 teams at a varsity level would cost more than $200 million, the university said.

The university looked into alternatives, including ticket sales, broadcast revenue, university funding, philanthropic support and operating budget reductions, but "found them insufficient to meet the magnitude of the financial challenge before us."

The entire athletics executive team and several head coaches, including the head football and basketball coaches, have already taken voluntary pay reductions.

"While Stanford may be perceived to have limitless resources, the truth is that we do not," Tessier-Lavigne, Drell and Muir wrote. "In general, athletics has been a self-sustaining entity on our campus, and we are striving to preserve that model in a time when budgetary support for our academic mission is already under significant stress."

Meanwhile, academic and administrative departments across the university are planning budget cuts of up to 10%.

The primary alternative to ending the 11 sports would require "broad and deep" cuts for all 36 varsity sports, which would include eliminating scholarships and negatively impact Stanford's ability to hire high-quality coaches and staff.

"After considering the effects of this model, we determined that operating our varsity athletics programs in this manner would be antithetical to Stanford's values and our determination to be excellent in all that we do," Tessier-Lavigne, Drell and Muir wrote.

Criteria used to select the 11 teams included: potential expense savings, sponsorship of the sport at the NCAA Division I level (of the 11, six are not NCAA-sponsored), local and national fan interest in the sport, history of the sport at Stanford and impact on gender equity, Title IX compliance and diversity.

Stanford will honor all existing athletics scholarship commitments to the affected student-athletes throughout their undergraduate years. The contracts of affected coaches will be honored and any support staff who are losing their jobs will be provided with severance pay.

All of the affected sports will be able to transition to club status after the 2020-21 season, "but will need to do so in a financially self-sustaining manner that ensures the safety and well-being of the participants," the university leaders said.

More information about the decision is available at this university Q&A.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 9, 2020 at 10:58 am
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 9, 2020 at 10:58 am
16 people like this

Maybe Stanford should have cut all fall sports. None will likely proceed this year. Perhaps defund athletics and start over. Which sports should be offered to college aspirants and students? How many employees are needed at what expense? How many rich alumni should get their offspring into Stanford on the claim or fact that the kid can play "squash" or any other sport?


too funny
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:03 pm
too funny, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:03 pm
10 people like this

@Gary @trolling

Exercise is a part of healthy living. Everyone needs 60 minutes per day....."give me 60 per the NFL public service message"

Medically vulnerably people need help and guidance. It's important to get off the couch, step back from your laptop.

High School, College and Professional Athletes have been at the forefront of getting Public Service messages to the public that exercise is a necessary part of healthy living.

Stay on couch if you choose. Type 2 diabetes is real, BMR's over 25 are significant. Smoking, drinking and illicit drugs are significant.

Healthy role models are important for our children to see.

We appreciate sports, music, and the arts as a part of a broad curriculum.


Gary
Sylvan Park
on Jul 9, 2020 at 7:07 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
on Jul 9, 2020 at 7:07 pm
10 people like this

The students taking up seats because they know how to exercise are taking seats from others. Watching them exercise on a football field or a basketball court or on tv from a couch will not make anyone else healthy. Indeed, tackle football does not make even the players themselves healthy for long. The longer they play, the harder they fall and limb and wind up in a wheelchair. Not a useful role model for anyone. But nice try


Bad Influence
another community
on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:02 pm
Bad Influence, another community
on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:02 pm
8 people like this

@too funny

Varsity sports are an incredibly inefficient way to create role models. The more money and influence involved, the worse it becomes.

The worst role models of all, of course, are professional sports - destroying bodies and minds on a quest to become a multimillionaire celebrity, accountable to no one. Unfortunately, this is how many Americans like their role models.

Shut down varsity college sports! Fund intramurals and gym programs. Or, maybe... academics?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.