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'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.

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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.

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"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.

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'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: Wed, Jul 8, 2020, 12:15 pm

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

JR
Palo Verde
on Jul 8, 2020 at 12:52 pm
JR, Palo Verde
on Jul 8, 2020 at 12:52 pm
27 people like this

Stanford, with its $26 billion dollar endowment, was not willing to spend $200 million to “perminantly” sustain these sports teams. What exactly does Stanford plan to use it’s endowment for if not to sustain university programs? It seems like the goal is growing the bank account at all costs. Greed is good.


Hefty Lefty
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:21 pm
Hefty Lefty, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:21 pm
23 people like this

The only amateurs left in big-time college sports are the athletes themselves.

Over the last several decades big-time college sports have become increasingly professionalized, not because a more professionalized sport builds a better student, and a better adult, but because a more professionalized big-time sport is a winning sport, and a winning sport builds the prestige and name recognition of the institution and its administrators.

How about de-professionalizing college football and basketball and down sizing their budgets to finance these smaller sports that provide an enriching experience for so many student athletes?

Do 100+ man squads, multi-million dollar coaching salaries, and demanding professional practice schedules, really provide a better educational experience for student athletes as a whole, or is this an operational model administrators have built to serve their own ambitions?


Seriously?
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:51 pm
Seriously?, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2020 at 1:51 pm
25 people like this

Stanford receives so much endowment each year but cannot share with certain sports dept and other basic services like janitorial or cafeteria...... Shame in Stanford.


Hulkamania
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 8, 2020 at 2:24 pm
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 8, 2020 at 2:24 pm
5 people like this

Or, Lefty, the football and basketball programs could be expanded to increase income and a percentage would dedicated to fund all of the "other" sports.


Football fan
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2020 at 7:19 pm
Football fan, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2020 at 7:19 pm
4 people like this

Does anyone know about refunds for Stanford season football tickets? Wonder what they will do with that...


Easy 8
Green Acres
on Jul 8, 2020 at 10:10 pm
Easy 8, Green Acres
on Jul 8, 2020 at 10:10 pm
8 people like this

Lefty: At virtually every university, the ONLY two sports that generate positive revenue are Men's football and Men's basketball. All the other sports lose money, especially when you factor in the cost of scholarships.

Biggest sources of revenue for men's football and men's basketball are ticket sales and enormously lucrative television and sponsorship deals. Forbes notes "College football's 25 most valuable programs combine to earn an average of $1.5 billion in profit on annual revenues of $2.7 billion."

Men's football and Men's basketball literally subsidize all the women's sports and the rest of men's sports. They are the hand that butters the bread.

This Forbes article explains the situation well

Web Link





Cardinal Disappointment
Southgate
on Jul 9, 2020 at 10:44 am
Cardinal Disappointment, Southgate
on Jul 9, 2020 at 10:44 am
11 people like this

So much for being comparable to Ivy League schools. Those schools value the development of their students including participation in competitive sports. Tough times require tough decisions. The Ivy League recently suspended (and likely will cancel) the fall football season. Want to fund the non-revenue sports teams? Be like the Ivy and eliminate athletic scholarships. Sure, this would jeopardize receiving the "winningest" trophy again, but would help allow the funding of the short-listed programs and more properly emphasize the university's educational mission.


fred
University South
on Jul 9, 2020 at 11:33 am
fred, University South
on Jul 9, 2020 at 11:33 am
7 people like this

Correcting some misconceptions:

Almost all of Stanford’s endowment is restricted to specific academic uses.

Brown in the Ivy League has also cut 11 sports. (Brown is Muir’s alma mater).

Season ticket holders will be able to request refunds if they are not able to attend games. However, if they do so rather than donate, it will explode the deficit to $25 or $50 million.

Stanford football generates less revenue than most other Power 5 schools so it can’t support as many non-revenue sports as other schools.


dontliveinCA
another community
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:24 pm
dontliveinCA, another community
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:24 pm
5 people like this

It's obvious that many folks posting don't understand how the endowment can be used. It is sad these sports had to be cut, but the University is doing the best it can under unprecedented circumstances. I bet other leagues will follow suit.


Not sad -- they should have cut more
College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:44 pm
Not sad -- they should have cut more, College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:44 pm
13 people like this

I don't think it's sad at all that these sports are being eliminated. The athletic departments at colleges have become the tail wagging the dog. Universities set aside SO MANY spots in their freshman class for athletes and then people of privilege have figured out that the way to get into these universities is through sports. With the exception of football, basketball and track, these slots largely go to the offspring of upper middle class white people. Universities should be focused on academics and excellence in so many other areas than just sports. I'm glad Stanford had the guts to cut sports teams and spend the money on academic excellence instead.


Riley2
Menlo Park
on Jul 9, 2020 at 3:03 pm
Riley2, Menlo Park
on Jul 9, 2020 at 3:03 pm
10 people like this

Personally, I think de-emphasizing sports at Stanford and comparable institutions is long overdue, and converting many of the teams to club status is a great idea. Several of the Ivies are currently doing just that. This may be disappointing to affluent parents who were counting on fencing, crew, or sailing as backdoor access to admission, but do we really want Stanford to reserve so many precious spots for sports recruits? And to draw down their endowment, as some suggest here, to support that?


john_alderman
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 5, 2020 at 11:52 am
john_alderman, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 11:52 am
1 person likes this

"Criteria used to select the 11 teams included: [...] impact on gender equity, Title IX compliance and diversity."

Read between the lines, they cut sports that are predominantly white, and middle/upper class. Woke bonus for cutting men's volleyball.

Cut sports: 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.


MVresident2003
Registered user
Mountain View
on Aug 5, 2020 at 10:34 pm
MVresident2003, Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 10:34 pm
Like this comment

When are y’all going to wake up.


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