Campus Split Over Cuts of Five Athletics Teams

Photo: Chancellor Robert Birgeneau (left) announced the decision to eliminate five varsity sports at a press conference on Tuesday, which Jack Clark, head of the rugby program since 1984 and one of eight coaches to be terminated, described as
Karen Ling/Photo
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau (left) announced the decision to eliminate five varsity sports at a press conference on Tuesday, which Jack Clark, head of the rugby program since 1984 and one of eight coaches to be terminated, described as "the hardest day of (his) life."


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Photo: Chancellor Robert Birgeneau (left) announced the decision to eliminate five varsity sports at a press conference on Tuesday, which Jack Clark, head of the rugby program since 1984 and one of eight coaches to be terminated, described as    Photo:    


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Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's announcement Tuesday that five athletics teams would no longer represent UC Berkeley on an intercollegiate level sent shock waves across the nation, leaving people to wonder about the future caliber of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. But some faculty said though the cuts were hard, they are a step in the right direction, allowing the campus to redistribute funds back into academic programs hit hard by budget cuts.

The cuts fall in line with many faculty and students' desire to redirect campus resources from athletics back into academic programs, particularly in light of California's precarious financial situation. Lack of state funding has trickled down to the campus and caused cutbacks in staff, services and supplies across campus departments.

While the decision to eliminate men's rugby, men's baseball, men's and women's gymnastics and women's lacrosse from intercollegiate competition was dubbed "difficult and painful" by Birgeneau and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, some faculty agree that the decision is necessary as the department attempts to reduce its reliance on campus institutional support to meet its annual budgets.

"Where we went two years with no hiring of faculty, where we went a year with furloughs, where we laid off 500 workers, we could not justify university support of intercollegiate athletics in the area of $15 million, $20 million," Birgeneau said at a press conference following the announcement of the cuts.

Birgeneau added that the department will not cut any more teams.

On Nov. 5, members of the campus division of the Academic Senate approved a resolution asking the campus to end all campus support to the athletics department and instead focus on redirecting funds to struggling academic programs. The Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics was then established, charged with advising Birgeneau on how best to remedy the department's financial troubles.

Last semester, Birgeneau created an additional advisory council - composed of four faculty and four alumni donors - with the same objective. Over the course of the last six months, both bodies have analyzed the department's operations to try and find a way to best cut costs while still maintaining a robust athletic program.

According to Calvin Moore, former chair of the task force, former member of the advisory council and campus professor of mathematics, neither group recommended that the department cut teams as the primary method to combat the financial situation, instead suggesting that the department focus on across-the-board cuts to curtail its financial woes.

"I think their deliberations and analysis came to the conclusion that you can't reduce campus support to $5 million by 2014, keep teams at the highest level of competition and still have a full compliment of 29 teams," he said. "You can do two of the three and the chancellor chose the most important ones."

In fiscal year 2008-09, institutional support for the department totaled $13.7 million, the largest amount in its history. Moving forward, the question remains as to how the department will effectively reduce costs on a yearly basis to meet its target goal of $5 million in institutional support - recommended by both the task force and the advisory council - in only four years.

Professor of public policy and former task force member Michael O'Hare said as the department moves forward to become financially self-sustaining, it must continue to utilize faculty oversight to make sure it addresses how money will be spent and how future plans will be executed.

"This is a division that has gotten in trouble financially before," he said. "Cutting teams is seven-twelfths of the loaf and it is definitely progress. But the questions that still remain are: where is the money to retire the loans to the renovation of Memorial Stadium and the building of the Student-Athlete High Performance Center? Where is money to maintain those facilities? I haven't seen those questions addressed anywhere."

Alisha Azevedo and James Zhao 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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