Three Cal Berkeley Athletic Teams Saved, Cal Women’s Lacrosse

BERKELEY — Three athletic teams at the University of California, Berkeley, slated to cease intercollegiate competition at the end of this academic year – women’s lacrosse, women’s gymnastics and rugby – will be preserved, campus officials announced today (Friday, Feb. 11). New philanthropic commitments will support the teams’ expenses while plans are implemented for long-term financial self-sufficiency. With today’s announcement, the campus remains on track to meet its commitment to cap annual allocations for Intercollegiate Athletics at no more than $5 million annually by 2014.

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Chancellor Birgeneau’s statement on continuation of sports teamsIn September 2010, UC Berkeley announced its intention to eliminate four teams – women’s and men’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse and baseball – and to assign rugby to a newly created sports tier. During the last several months, alumni, student-athletes, coaches and fans mobilized to solicit funding to preserve the teams’ intercollegiate status.

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.

Cal rugby, along with women’s gymnastics and lacrosse, will continue as varsity sports, campus officials announced Friday. “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.”

As part of the fundraising process, a number of donors have come forward to help sustain the costs of women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse. In addition, rugby has committed to support its own costs as well as to contribute to the stabilization of the women’s programs.

All told, the campus received $12 million to $13 million in philanthropic pledges from the organizers of the fundraising efforts. Of that total, the campus is confident that at least $8 million will be available to support the net expenses of women’s lacrosse, women’s gymnastics and rugby. This new and incremental philanthropy gives the university the confidence that these three teams will cover their costs for at least the next seven to 10 years.

Funds raised in excess of those directed and necessary to help rugby or the two women’s sports would have, if they were all immediately available, covered the projected funding shortfall of men’s gymnastics and baseball for approximately two years.

“On behalf of all our program’s student-athletes, alumni and supporters, we are honored that Cal rugby will continue within Intercollegiate Athletics,” said rugby coach Jack Clark. “Our donors have once again generously demonstrated their high regard for Cal rugby through their impassioned response to these financial challenges. We also sincerely appreciate the university’s willingness to work with us these past months to allow rugby to maintain its status on campus.”

The initial criteria provided to donors last fall asked for up to $100 million to fund a new endowment for all five teams. However, due to the early optimism and response from the alumni community and team supporters, the funding criteria were amended in November 2010 to require solid commitments for $25 million in interim funding that would have supported all five teams’ operational expenses while plans were implemented for long-term, sustainable funding.

Campus officials said that the criteria established for reinstatement were based on the same understandings and principles that informed their initial decision: As state disinvestment in higher education continues, the university cannot continue to provide Intercollegiate Athletics with annual allocations in the $10 million to $15 million range, and the program must be placed on a financially sustainable path.

If the campus’s financial challenges were serious when the scope decision was announced in September, they have only grown more severe in the wake of Gov. Brown’s proposal to cut another $500 million from the University of California’s budget, officials said.

“Throughout this painful process, the student-athletes on the impacted teams have been foremost in my mind. We spent long months analyzing every conceivable option that could have precluded the need to reduce the scope of the Cal Athletics program,” said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. “While we will honor every existing scholarship, I know that many of the student-athletes on the two teams slated to cease competition on behalf of the university are now grappling with a difficult choice. I deeply regret that some will choose to go elsewhere.”

“The steps we are taking in regard to Cal Athletics are no different, and no less painful, than those we have taken in regard to every other aspect of our operations,” he said. “This is an indication of the extent of our challenges, and the degree to which they can be surmounted only if the burden is equitably shared. Cal Athletics, as an integral part of campus life in good times and bad, cannot and should not be completely insulated from a reality we cannot avoid.”

“While every member of the Cal Athletics family is saddened by the fact that the fundraising was not sufficient to bring back all five teams,” said Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, “I want to express my great appreciation and thanks to the literally hundreds of our alumni and friends who rallied to show the kind of financial and emotional support that was necessary to make this decision possible.”

“We will now focus our attention on doing all that it will take to bring our community together, provide our student-athletes with all that they need to excel, and honor our commitment to maintain the budgetary discipline necessary to meet the chancellor’s decision to cap annual allocations for Intercollegiate Athletics at no more than $5 million annually by 2014,” she said.

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