Cut It Out!

Campus Issues: The decision to reinstate three of the five varsity teams set to be cut is the culmination of a series of poor decisions.

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Friday's announcement that three varsity teams will not be cut was a bittersweet end to a process marked by poor communication, bad decision-making and opaque proceedings by campus administration.

The restoration of rugby, lacrosse and women's gymnastics as varsity sports is welcome news, especially to the student-athletes and their coaching staffs whose futures at Cal have been reaffirmed. However, any elation the athletes feel after escaping the axe is tempered by the news that 55 of their peers cannot join in the celebration.

These are difficult economic times, and as we've said before, we understand that certain measures had to be made to ensure the financial stability of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. However, from the beginning, this process has been marked by appalling miscommunication and a lack of transparency that is inexcusable given the decision's considerable impact on the lives of 163 student-athletes.

When the initial announcement was made in September that five teams would be cut, both Chancellor Birgeneau and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour pointed to the formation of two advisory councils as evidence that the administration performed its due diligence in making the decision.

The cuts were described as necessary in reducing institutional support to Intercollegiate Athletics from $13.7 million in fiscal year 2009 to $5 million in 2014. We trusted the administration, blaming years of departmental mismanagement for creating the circumstances necessitating the cuts and imploring the campus to be sure that these cuts were not made in vain.

Then, coaches suggested if the campus had indicated that the teams were in danger, fundraising might have been successful enough for the teams to avoid the cuts.

The relative success of the recent Save Cal Sports movement prompted a new message - that the cut teams stood a chance of being reinstated if they were able to secure $25 million in donations and show that the affected programs had a system in place for financing themselves in the long-term.

However, any hope for a possible outcome where all five teams would emerge unscathed was dashed with Friday's brief phone-in press conference and campus-wide e-mail.

The announcement that the funds pledged were enough to reinstate only rugby, lacrosse and women's gymnastics came as a shock to everyone, from the organizers of Save Cal Sports to the athletes and coaches of the affected teams. Before Friday, coaches and athletes believed that the different teams were responsible for raising money together.

Had the campus revealed earlier that it would be evaluating the fundraising by pledge totals per team, perhaps Save Cal Sports or the individual teams could have better coordinated to meet each team's individual target. Instead coaches found out that the campus was using this method shortly before the general public did, making any sort of emergency fundraising to meet these new targets impossible.

Donors and fundraisers were also surprised by campus officials' totals for confirmed donations, which was much lower than they expected. We fail to see how there can be such a discrepancy between the campus's numbers and the fundraisers' numbers, and the campus must openly explain how it came up with its totals. The consequences of any miscalculation are life-changing, as student-athletes struggle to decide between seeking transfers or ending a varsity collegiate athletic career.

The campus was least transparent in explaining the role that Title IX, the federal gender-equity law, played into its decisions throughout the process. While officials stated that compliance with Title IX was a factor in determining which teams would initially be cut, a recent New York Times article suggested that the campus may not be in compliance if it instituted the cuts. The campus response - that it would adjust the teams' rosters - sounded like a last-minute quick-fix and suggested that they did not fully anticipate the result of their initial decision. If adjusting the rosters was something they planned to do all along, then they should have made it clear that that was part of their plan in September.

It's good that the campus is keeping the restoration of baseball and men's gymnastics on the table, though we doubt either will return soon, if at all. The remaining teams must decide if they're content with donations being their major funding source in the future, but something needs to change - this long, unjust process marked by uncertainty must never happen again.

Tags: CAL ATHLETICS, JACK CLARK, CAL MEN'S GYMNASTICS, CAL WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS, CAL MEN'S RUGBY, BUDGET CUTS, CAL MEN'S BASEBALL, CAL WOMEN'S LACROSSE, SANDY BARBOUR






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