Following Cuts of Five Teams, Department Looks to Become Solvent

Photo: Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and Chancellor Robert Birgeneau held a press conference Tuesday announcing the elimination of five sports teams.
Karen Ling/Photo
Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and Chancellor Robert Birgeneau held a press conference Tuesday announcing the elimination of five sports teams.


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Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary quickly summarizes the happenings of the press conference.



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Press Conference Part 1

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary, and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour sit down for a press conference to deliver their verdict to the public.



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Press Conference Part 2

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary, and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour sit down for a press conference to deliver their verdict to the public.


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With Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's decision Tuesday to eliminate five intercollegiate teams from UC Berkeley's Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, actions to move forward are being considered to further reduce costs and expenditures as the department strives for financial sustainability.

In a press conference Tuesday, Birgeneau, Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said the decision to eliminate men's baseball, men's and women's gymnastics, women's lacrosse as well as to make the men's rugby team a "varsity club" sport was made after considerable and careful deliberation and the final conclusion was "difficult and painful."

Frank Yeary serves on an advisory board for The Daily Californian that does not have control over editorial content.

"As an educator, I am deeply sad by the impact that this will have on the student athletes and coaches in each sport and their communities," Barbour said. "But I believe this decision provides us with the opportunity to provide for future student athletes with the best opportunity to succeed."

The teams will be cut at the end of the academic year, saving the campus $4 million in the first year of implementation.

At the press conference, Birgeneau said the decision to eliminate the five teams became necessary after the department started to incur serious financial difficulties in 2008-09, in part because of the economic recession. In that year, the department required $13.7 million in campus support. In deciding which teams to eliminate, officials took into account a wide range of factors.

"Our analysis was that cutting the program across the board and not reducing the number of teams would have had a dramatic impact on the competitive ability of every single one of our teams and the capability of our department to provide every team with what they need," Barbour said. "Therefore, in our analysis, making specific sport team cuts was the best available option."

Teams were evaluated in areas such as financial impact, the team's history of competitive success, the department's ability to comply with Title IX and the principles of gender equity, donor impact, opportunities for NCAA and Pac-10 success, contributions to student-athlete diversity, student-athlete opportunities, utilization of support services, contributions to the Directors' Cup, contributions to the athletic department mission and prevalence of local and regional varsity competition.

By the year 2014, the department expects to reduce campus support to $5 million a year, compared to the $13.7 million it received from campus in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Of the possible ways to bring in revenue to the department, Barbour said preliminary plans focus on targeting the "potential" of the roughly 8,000 donors as well as the more than 400,000-person alumni base for new ways to boost contributions to teams or to the department.

According to Vice Chancellor for University Relations Scott Biddy, the department needs to pool its resources and ensure that it reaches out to as many constituents as possible to be able to maximize the amount of donations to the department.

"If we look at other intercollegiate athletics fundraising programs, they will tend to have a higher percentage of participation," he said. "Granted, they're generally much smaller, but their models work."

But donors to various athletic programs are beginning to question how Birgeneau's decision are going to affect donations.

"People are now not going to be predisposed (to donating) and here's why - the chancellor and the athletic director call us (donors) loyal," said Jeffrey Warren, a donor to the campus and a former Cal rugby player. "Here's the problem - they are not being loyal to their university and they are not being loyal to their alumni."

Alisha Azevedo, James Zhao and Gabriel Baumgaertner of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]



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