STANFORD (CBS SF) – Stanford University announced Wednesday that it plans to discontinue 11 varsity sports from its athletics program due to financial concerns that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our goal is to provide excellent support and a world-class experience for our student-athletes in the sports that we offer. Over time, however, providing 36 varsity teams with the level of support that they deserve has become a serious and growing financial challenge,” school president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, provost Persis Drell and athletic director Bernard Muir said in a joint statement.
Describing the cuts as “heartbreaking” and “extremely difficult,” the following sports will be discontinued after the upcoming academic year: men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling.
More than 240 student-athletes will be affected by the cuts, while 22 coaches and 20 support staff will lose their jobs.
The school’s highly acclaimed men’s volleyball team, which won National Championships in 1997 and 2010, along with being runners-up in 2014, was not spared. Coached by John Kosty, the program has been ranked in the top 15 for 12 out of the past 13 seasons.
The university said the discontinued programs have collectively won 20 national championships and alumni have gone on to win 27 Olympic medals.
School officials said that offering 36 varsity sports, double the average NCAA Division I athletics program, was no longer sustainable. Revising its budget due to the pandemic, the university projected the athletics department would have a $25 million deficit next fiscal year and a cumulative shortfall of nearly $70 million over the next three years. The university fears deficits could grow even more if sports seasons are again suspended or altered.
Meanwhile, the university’s academic and administrative units have already been planning for budget cuts of up to 10 percent as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The university went on to say that the school’s endowment could not be used to cover the costs of providing the sports and that donations from supporters would not be enough to permanently sustain the programs, which it calculates to be more than $200 million.
“While Stanford may be perceived to have limitless resources, the truth is that we do not,” the university said.
Stanford said it would honor the athletic scholarships given to the affected student-athletes, while coaches will also have their contracts honored. Support staff will also receive severance pay.