Ten months after cutting nearly a third of its various sports programs, Stanford announced on Tuesday that the 11 sports – including 10 presented at the Olympics – will eventually not be discontinued, ending a fierce battle between supporters of those sports and university within weeks of teams potentially dissolving.
“It’s hard to say exactly why Stanford changed their minds, but cutting back on sports was a huge PR problem and a huge sight for them,” said Kayler Presho, senior men’s volleyball team. “We were relentless to give them every reason to reconsider and we just didn̵
Presho said the volleyball team heard the news on Tuesday morning when its coach John Costi called a video conference. Jeremy Jacobs, a men’s volleyball graduate who helped lead the 36 Sports Strong advocacy group that worked to preserve the 11 sports, was the man to break the good news.
Then the players, many of whom lived on the same floor of the same dormitory, poured into their hallways from their rooms, applauding, hugging and crashing into a giant holiday pit.
“It was just joy, relief, happiness, so many positive emotions at once,” Presho said.
Last July, Stanford made cuts, saying they were the last resort and blamed “the harsh new financial reality imposed by Covid-19”, blinding coaches and athletes who were affected. This season will be the last for these sports, the university said.
In the following months, supporters of these sports, including current students, alumni, and parents of students, had spurred a vocal, organized, and growing effort to raise tens of millions of dollars to save their programs and pressure the university to let the sport stay.
Only last week, a couple of lawsuits were filed in federal court alleging that Stanford had deceived recruits by not telling them that their sports could be dropped, and also saying that the university would violate Title IX, if the sport is not restored.
The students in the sports who were cut off made the decision difficult, especially when the university repeatedly told them that the decision would be final and that there was no way for the teams to fight for their own existence. Many athletes said they doubted the university’s motives for the layoffs were financial. Stanford has $ 27.7 billion, but officials said the money was earmarked for other things. He predicts a deficit of $ 70 million over the next three years if the 11 teams are not eliminated.
“I feel very clear that this is not about money, at least in the case of rowing,” said Silas Stafford, a rower who competed in the 2012 Olympics. “There are many alumni who would be happy to help fund the program. I don’t think rowing is on their agenda. For them, this is more of a headache than a benefit. “
The elimination of men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s fencing, women’s lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, field hockey, squash, synchronized swimming, wrestling and code, and women’s sailing will save the athletics department $ 8 million, the college said. . These sports have won a total of 20 national championships and given 27 Olympic medalists.
Just when the athletes were informed that their sports were being restricted last July 8, Stanford President Mark Tessier-Lavigne, Vice-President Percy Drell and Athletic Director Bernard Muir said the athletics department – despite Stanford’s huge talent and huge holdings in Silicon Valley to be self-sufficient.
The letter said the school had explored covering budget deficits through ticket sales, broadcasting revenue, university funding, charity and budget cuts, but found that these measures would not be enough.
The university said in a statement Tuesday that financial challenges still exist, but fundraising efforts have created a new path for the sport.
“We have new optimism based on new circumstances, including a vigorous and widespread philanthropic interest in Stanford Athletics by our alumni, who have convinced us that raising the increased funds needed to support all 36 of our teams is an approach that can to succeed, “said Tessie-Lavigne.
Although chopping block sports teams typically generate scant off-campus attention, they – along with the challenges posed by the pandemic – often serve as a backdrop for the school’s sports programs this year.
When wrestler Shane Griffith won the 165-pound national championship, he wore it in a black singlet without the school logo and then wore a sweatshirt with the caption: Save the Stanford fight.
The cuts have outraged athletes who have taken advantage of the promise Stanford has sold for years as a place where students in broad sports can have an elite academic and athletic experience in college.
The decision also galvanized Stanford’s athletic alumni, leading to many famous athletes supporting the 36 Sports Strong group – including the famous Mike Musina Baseball Hall, Senator Corey Booker, golfer Michelle Wee West and gymnast Kerry Strug.
The coaches, like the players, were deceived that they did not get a vote in the decision.
The Stanford coaching fraternity is particularly close, which some attribute to the common ground of striving to compete for national titles in a school where recruitment is tougher than in other athletic programs. In addition, many coaches at Stanford – which provides housing on campus to dozens of its coaches – are neighbors.
“Everyone understands that the challenge of winning at Stanford is the biggest challenge in terms of who you recruit, the students you need and the high-quality athlete you need, and the character is special,” said Tara Van Derweer, a coach at women’s basketball, whose team won its third national championship in April. “We all know it’s not easy.”
That’s why, she said, there was so much emotion last month when Stanford’s synchronized swimming team won the national championship in its home pool at the Avery Aquatics Center, greeted by several hundred fans chanting “Save Stanford Synchro.”
“Everyone was crying,” Vandervir said.