BERKELEY (AP) — In its latest move to cut costs, the University of California, Berkeley, announced plans Tuesday to eliminate four intercollegiate sports, including baseball, and end financial support of its championship men’s rugby team.
UC Berkeley’s baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse teams will no longer represent the university in intercollegiate competition after this academic year, officials said.
The men’s rugby team, which has won 25 national championships since 1980, will lose its varsity status and be reclassified as a “varsity club sport,” a new category at Cal. The team, which has a strong fundraising operation, can continue playing and competing on campus but should become financially self-supporting by 2014, officials said.
“These decisions were difficult and painful,” Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said at a campus news conference. “Everyone deeply regrets the human toll these decisions will take.”
Reducing the number of intercollegiate teams from 29 to 24 will save an estimated $4 million a year and affect 163 of the school’s more than 800 student-athletes, as well as 13 full-time coaches.
After the teams are eliminated, the Pac-10 school will continue to honor promised scholarships to the affected students or help them transfer to other schools if they want to pursue their athletic careers, officials said.
The program cuts are part of a broader campaign to reduce UC Berkeley’s annual support for intercollegiate athletics from more than $12 million today to about $5 million in 2014.
In recent years, many faculty members have argued that UC Berkeley is spending too much money on sports when deep cuts in state funding have led to employee furloughs, reduced student enrollment and steep tuition increases.
UC Berkeley administrators said they decided on the cuts after considering a variety of factors, including cost, student diversity, impact on donations and compliance with Title IX, the federal law that requires schools to provide equal opportunities to male and female students in sports and other activities.
Making across-the-board cuts to all programs, rather than eliminating whole teams, would hurt every team’s ability to compete, said Sandy Barbour, Cal’s director of athletics.
“Clearly, this is a painful outcome after months of deliberation, analysis and the examination of every viable alternative,” Barbour said.
Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday’s announcement “highlights what is at stake due to the significant financial pressure schools and athletic departments are under.”
UC Berkeley is the latest public university in California to cut sports teams after the state slashed funding to higher education to close its massive budget deficit.
In April, UC Davis announced it was eliminating four of its 27 intercollegiate sports programs—women’s rowing, men’s wrestling, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s indoor track and field—this academic year.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow, who left Berkeley in 2006, said he was shocked and saddened to hear the news about the Cal baseball team.
“I think its awful. I think it’s embarrassing that a Pac-10 school is going to cancel their baseball program. I don’t understand why they would even consider it,” Morrow said. “I think it’s a great institution, and it’s sad news to hear.”
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