Baseball and men’s gymnastics will still be eliminated at UC Berkeley next year, but women’s gymnastics and lacrosse will be preserved and rugby will not be demoted to a club sport, according to an announcement made today by the university.

“After a comprehensive, sport-by-sport review of the philanthropic commitments, unfortunately, it was determined that the pledges for baseball and men’s gymnastics fell short of the criteria provided to potential donors: sufficient funding to support team expenses for the next seven to 10 years and the presentation of a feasible plan for sustained financial independence,” read the press release.

“We are all greatly impressed by how our community organized itself in the attempt to help these five sports and the university,” said Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary. “We are delighted that, together, we have found a path that allows us to retain the two women’s teams and our rugby program without adding costs to the strained budgets of the university and Cal Athletics.”

“Sadly, the efforts did not meet these criteria insofar as baseball and men’s gymnastics are concerned,” he said. “Although the amount of money raised for these two programs is meaningful, the teams’ costs are also significant.  Both programs would have needed to raise multiples of what they actually did raise to meet our criteria.  In the context of both current and forecasted economic and financial conditions, we simply could not agree to short-term, stopgap measures.”

In September, UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced that the university would eliminate the baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse teams, and reclassify the men’s rugby team to “varsity club sport,” reducing the overall number of teams from 29 to 24. The teams were losing money, he said, and eliminating them would save the athletic department about $4 million a year.

The university, which has seen its state support greatly reduced in recent years, is trying to reduce its annual subsidy for athletics from $12 million now to $5 million in 2014.

After Birgeneau’s announcement, a group called Save Cal Sports sprang up and went into fundraising overdrive. It has received about $12 to $13 million in pledges so far, with much of the support going for the women’s teams. The rugby team has pledged to be self–sustaining. But the group did not get pledges sufficient enough to sustain the baseball team and men’s lacrosse.

The decision to retain the two women’s teams may stem from a late realization that Cal would be out of compliance with Title IX requirements if they were eliminated. According to a recent New York Times story, 40% of Cal’s 965 athletes in varsity programs are women, while 53% of the student body is female. If Cal went ahead with its plans to eliminate the five teams,  it “will have to add 50 spots for women and eliminate 80 spots for men to meet Title IX requirements,” according to the Times. “That is in addition to the more than 100 male athletes already cut when men’s rugby, baseball and gymnastics were dropped as varsity sports, or about the equivalent of two football squads.”

Related links:

Read Birgenau’s letter to the campus community.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. The various national collegiate leagues are essentially professional sports with very constricted forms of paying the labor. The universities and colleges have no proper business entering into such for-profit ventures in any capacity.

    If you want leagues of young people playing to earn their degree, funded by big media and so forth, and big stadiums and such … just professionalize those leagues and leave the universities out of it, other than as passive recipients of donations.

  2. I am not much of a sports fan but geez, no baseball at one of the major public universities in the country? It seems almost un-American. Next thing you know, apple pie will be banished.

    I lived in Omaha, NE for a few years. Omaha hosts the College Baseball World Series at their minor league baseball stadium, Rosenblatt Stadium, which is home to the farm team for the Kansas City Royals. I lived there because it was my now ex-husband’s home town. He was, and I am sure he remains, a huge spectator sports fan. He seemed to love watching live team sport. We had season tickets each year to the College World Series and I gotta tell ya, it is infectious. The stands are full of parents doting on their athletically gifted sons –I imagine there is a college world series for girls teams? but it wasn’t in Omaha when I was there — and pro scouts littter the stands with guns measuring the pitches’ speed and the atheletes playing their hearts out in the biggest games of their life thus far. In those series’, I got a feel for the many positives a sweet sport like baseball brings to the participants, their institutions and communities. It is a positive reason to come together and support one another.

    It pinches my heart to read that there will be no more male baseball at UC Berkeley. I never went to a game there and I was unlikely ever to do so. But it mattered that thousands of hearts, minds and spirits came together during each baseball season to be human in pursuit of excellence together. It is sad that it is gone from the UC community.

  3. Of course, if UC didn’t slobber all over its (semi-pro) football program and lavish it with ridiculous salaries and facilities, then maybe there’d be some pennies left over for other sports.