Baseball axed as varsity sport at UC Berkeley

Gymnastics, women's lacrosse also cut in effort to save $4 million in subsidies

It's been said that baseball is as American as apple pie, but men's baseball will no longer be a varsity sport at UC Berkeley under a cost-cutting plan announced by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau Tuesday.

Culminating a yearlong review process, Birgeneau said the university will also cut men's and women's gymnastics and women's lacrosse and reassign the men's rugby team to "varsity club" status.

Birgeneau said the university has had to spend more than $12 million annually to subsidize its athletics program, and the cuts are aimed at saving at least $4 million per year and reducing the subsidy to $5 million by 2014.

"These decisions were difficult and painful," he said, and "were not made lightly or in haste."

But Birgeneau said he had to take action because the current subsidy is "not sustainable for our campus in a time of drastic state budget cuts to the university that are affecting all of our faculty, staff and students."

The cuts reduce the number of sports teams at UC Berkeley from 29 to 24.

Birgeneau said the figure is still higher than the number of sports teams at most universities in the nation. In the Pac-10 Conference it is second only to Stanford University, which sponsors 35 sports. The University of California, Los Angles also has 24 teams.

The cuts affect 163 of the university's 814 intercollegiate student athletes and 13 full-time coaches.

Impacted are 38 students in men's baseball, 19 students in men's gymnastics, 15 students in women's gymnastics, 30 in women's lacrosse and 61 in men's rugby.

Birgeneau said the university will honor current scholarship levels for those who choose to remain at UC Berkeley but will also help those who want to transfer to another school to continue their athletic pursuits.

The school's rugby squad has been the most successful team at the university, winning 25 national titles in 30 years, including the 2010 championship last spring.

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Posted by cosmic-charlie
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 29, 2010 at 6:45 am

Smoke and Mirrors folks! This is "Title 9" in its full glory...

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Posted by Joanne
a resident of Danbury Park
on Sep 29, 2010 at 6:57 am

We will be seeing much more of this as people and colleges compete for funding. Sports which have a negative impact on the budget like those mentioned above will disappear. Pure economics, unfortunate, but the way of life now in Obama land. Football and men's Basketball will be the offerings in the future.

Like this comment
Posted by nancy s.
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2010 at 8:40 am

@cosmo-charlie...Title IX had nothing to do with this. It is pure economics.However if you feel that because womens sports have to be recognized, and in doing so they take money away from mens programs...get your head out of your rear...this is the 21st century. Women have the same right to play sports and receive scholarships in college as men.

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Posted by cosmic-charlie
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

nancy, thanks for the personal smear.

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Posted by soccermom
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Sep 29, 2010 at 9:15 am

Couldn't they keep baseball but just drastically cut the travel? That's likely where most of the cost comes from. Or even cut travel across all sports.

I agree, this has nothing to do with Title IX. This has everything to do with our state government mismanaging money.

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Posted by Noedup
a resident of Danville
on Sep 29, 2010 at 9:29 am


I think it probably is only a monetary decision. Cutting travel would probably not help the situation because they are in the PAC 10 so the other universities would have to shoulder the burden of always travelling to CAL. The other major issues with sports like baseball, rugby, golf, etc. is that they are not even revenue neutral because of equipment, facilities, maintenance, and insurance. They cost the university money. My understanding is that the only sports which generally generate positive cash flow for a college are football and men's basketball, attendance, and TV money from deals with the major networks. I think as mentioned above at the end of the day these will be offered by all universities but the money losers will go away.

Like this comment
Posted by Tennessee Jed
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Sep 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

Cosmic Charlie, I think you are right, this is one of those unintended consequences coming out of title IX. And Nancy, you are right as well, women have a right to equal access and funding, I agree with that. My rub is that precious slots are used in the college system to give access to some underachieving academically while excelling in sports. And often remedial intervention is required. I would rather see students who excel academically who otherwise would not be given opportunities because less academically achieving students fill those slots based on sports performance. If the sports programs could generate enough money to pay for themselves to attend tournaments and competitions all the while the school not requiring subsidized funds from students who don't participate in sports, such as the model of the Little League World Series competition, then I would have no problem, but don't take or demand subsidies as part of that admission to the university. That is my rub... And let's keep the personal thing out please. Jed

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2010 at 10:55 am

UC Davis cancelled its swim team for men.

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Posted by soccermom
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Sep 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

PLease tell me where men's soccer will be cut so that I can be sure my son doesn't apply there!! ;)

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Posted by Amazon
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 29, 2010 at 3:44 pm

What I find surprising about this article is that the headline leads with baseball being cut. That is no surprise as it's a sport that already is on the decline. To note, baseball has already been cut from being an Olympic sport and will not be played in the 2012 Olympics.

What is shocking is that lacrosse has been cut - a sport that by all counts, the fastest growing sport in the country. That is both the most shocking news and the biggest loss in this decision.

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm


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Posted by jaycee
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

It says "Women's Lacrosse" will be cut. Do they have a men's team? I agree with Amazon. It is really the up and coming sport, especially out here, where it's not been as popular as the east coast and other areas. I'm surprised....

Like this comment
Posted by naptime
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

Rick - are you serious? zzzzz to lacrosse!!! The biggest ZZZZZZs have always belonged to baseball!

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Posted by Rick
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:33 am

Naptime......sure you aren't from Blonde ranch. If you understand baseball it is a very exciting game. I have explained to many and once they get it they realize what looks boring is amazing complicated and cerebral game. But why bring intelligence into another physical hitting sport like football or lacrosse.....yes exciting to watch people hit each other. Bring on the violence in sports please.

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Posted by steve
a resident of Parkside
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

None of the state schools are considering cancelling soccer programs since it's not considered a 'sport', but is part of the program to indoctrinate our young student's skulls full of mush with the worldly wisdom of 3rd world rituals.

Like this comment
Posted by BearLover
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I left the Athletic department at UCB a few years ago. This has been batted back and forth for many years. Last I heard, it was due to Title IX, but now with the economy as it is...why don't the regents take a cut in pay. A few years ago their secretary was earning over $250K a year.

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Posted by Milan Moravec
a resident of Danville
on Oct 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Chancellor’s consultants cost $3,000,000: athletic savings $4,000.000. Absolute transparency for University of California Berkeley. UC Berkeley’s budget gap has grown to $150 million, & Chancellor Birgeneau is spending money that isn't there on $3,000,000 consultants. (A world-class East Coast University is doing the same as UC Berkeley without consultants: $0 cost). His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the consultants "thinking".
Does this mean that the Faculty & management of UC Berkeley – flagship campus of the greatest public system of higher education in the world - lack the thinking, integrity, impartiality, innovation to identify savings? Have they been fudging their research for years?
The consultants will, by the way, get their recommendations from faculty & staff interviews; yet $150 million of inefficiencies could be found internally if the Chancellor & Provost Breslauer did the WORK of their $500,000 jobs (This simple point is lost on Breslauer, Birgeneau).
The victims of this folly are Faculty, Students & taxpayers.
There is only one conclusion as to why inefficiencies are not volunteered by faculty & staff: Chancellor Birgeneau & Provost Breslauer have lost the credibility & trust of Cal Faculty & Staff. Even if the faculty agrees the consultants' recommendations - disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy - the underlying problem of lost credibility & trust remains.
Contact your representatives in Sacramento: tell them of the hefty self-serving $’s being spent by Birgeneau & Breslauer.
Make a difference…speak your opinion 925 942 6082, 916 651 4007. Let there be light!

Like this comment
Posted by MIKE
a resident of Harvest Park Middle School
on Oct 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm

For all those that think this was not title IX you need to know that many former alumnis stepped up to save/fund the baseball program the day after this decision was made and were told no the decision is final. It is way deeper than just money, Cal has not been in compliance with title IX and the budget problems were an easy way to get rid of 38 baseball players, 61 rugby players and 19 mens gymnast and they threw the 15 womens gymnast and 30 lacrosse to try and divert away from this. They gained 73 womans spots for title IX. Think about it many former baseball players could fund the program by themselves. I have nothing against title IX its just unfair that football has 100 spots and there is not a womans sport to offset it so ALL the other mens sports suffer. I don't think football should count towards title IX then numbers problems would be fixed.

Like this comment
Posted by Milan Moravec
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm

UC Berkeley’s recent elimination of popular sports programs highlighted endemic problems in the university’s management. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians in Sacramento, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.

A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Compentent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up….until there was no money left.

It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.

From time to time, a whistleblower would bring some glaring problem to light, but the chancellor’s response was to dig in and defend rather than listen and act. Since UC has been exempted from most whistleblower lawsuits, there are ultimately no negative consequences for maintaining inefficiencies.

In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC president, Board of Regents, and California legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, students, staff, academic senate, Cal. alumni, and California taxpayers await the transformation.

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