By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
The University of California at Berkeley announced it will cut baseball from its athletic department, along with men's gymnastics, women's gymnastics and women's lacrosse team.
In addition, rugby, winner of 18 national titles in the last 20 years, will become a "varsity club" sport, meaning the school will cut off funding for the program.
Baseball dates to 1982 at Cal.
"I've been doing this long enough, and I'm shocked if that's the case," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said of the reports. "When I first started coaching it was George Wolfman, Dutch Fehring, Jackie Jensen, for three, Bob Milano for 22 years and then, Dave Esquer who played for me. They've had a very rich college baseball tradition, been to the College World Series a couple of times and won a national title. It's a sad day for college baseball."
Oregon reinstated its baseball program in time for the 2008 season, giving the Pac-10 Conference a full complement of teams. The loss of the Bears would impact scheduling. Stanford and Cal continued to play a home-and-home series every year even after the conference went to a single round.
"It has an affect on all of the Pac-10," Marquess said. "You are talking about a program that started playing baseball in the late 1890s. That's over 100 years of tradition. Obviously it affects Stanford, because it's our traditional rival and obviously we are big rivals but we have a lot of good friends there."
The Bears finished 29-25 this past season and reached the NCAA tournament. They were eliminated by Oral Roberts in the Norman, Oklahoma regional. It is Cal's third NCAA regional berth since 2001 under Esquer, and the program's 11th NCAA regional berth all-time.
Cal won the first-ever NCAA College World Series title in 1947, and won the national title again in 1957. The Bears also placed third at the 1980 College World Series and also competed in the CWS in 1988 and 1992 under Milano.
"Some great players have gone through that baseball program," Marquess said. "It's not a situation where Cal has not been successful, they have been to the postseason two of the last four years and had first round draft picks. They've had a lot of guys sign. It's been a very successful program. It's just hard to believe."
Shortstop Tony Renda and left-hander Justin Jones were named to the All-America freshmen team and first team all-Pac-10.
The cuts will save Cal an estimated $4 million in 2011-12. Amid California's budget crisis that has hit public education hard, the Cal faculty has pressed to cut funding for athletics.
Cal has one of the largest one of the largest athletic programs in the country for a public university. The goal is to reduce the annual budget losses to $5 million by 2014.
A total of 163 student-athletes of the more than 800 currently participating in Cal athletics will be impacted by the decision, 38 in baseball, 19 in men's gymnastics, 15 in women's gymnastics, 30 in women's lacrosse and 61 in men's rugby, as well as 13 full-time coaches.
"Clearly, this is a painful outcome after months of deliberation, analysis and the examination of every viable alternative," Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said. "I deeply regret the impact this will have on so many valued members of our community. I know it will take time, but I believe that once our community digests the information and understands the reality we were forced to confront, it will come together, as it always does, in support of our student-athletes."
Of course, the university shows its support by cutting the cord on sports that helps educate and shape the character of 118 men and 45 women.
Among the factors considered were net cost, donor impact, student opportunity, proximity of national and regional varsity competition, contribution to diversity, impact on Cal's ability to comply with Title IX, opportunity for NCAA and Pac-10 success, utilization of support services and history of competitive excellence.
Baseball was played by every Pac-10 school and is also sponsored at UC Davis, Sacramento State, San Jose State, St. Mary's, Pacific, San Francisco and Santa Clara.
The men's gynmnastics team has been one of the top programs in the nation for many years, and have competed with Stanford in at least four local meets a year.
Women's lacrosse has been a viable sport at Cal for many years.
UC Berkeley will continue to offer intercollegiate athletic programs in men's and women's basketball, men's and women's crew, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, football, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's track and field (indoor and outdoor), women's volleyball, and men's and women's water polo.
However he chooses to skew the issues, Cal Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau has made a mistake. Cutting the sports, he says, will allow the school "to support the campus's commitment to excellence."
Is it the same way Barbour said the cuts "support ... our student-athletes?"
A facebook page to save Cal baseball sprung up almost immediately.