UC-Berkeley has announced that they are eliminating five varsity teams in order to trim their shaky budget and also bring the school in line with Title IX requirements. A storied history and championship performances were no protection against the axe.Among the team’s that have been demoted to club status: men’s baseball (which has been playing at the school since 1892) and men’s rugby, which has won 25 national championships since 1980. You don’t have to major in maths at Berkeley to know that’s pretty good.
Like most schools, Cal’s athletic expenses outstrip their revenues–in this case, by about $12 million a year–which is typically made up by student fees and discretionary funds from the university proper. The move will save the Bears $4 million next year, but it’s not just about the money. The rugby team actually covers its own expenses. But with 61 young men on the roster, it presents a simple solution to trimming the disparity between male and female athletes at the school. (Two women’s sports–gymnastics and lacrosse–were also cut.) With football taking up most of the spots, it would hard for a non-revenue team of that size to survive anywhere.
The demotion of a program as successful as Cal’s rugby team certainly looks harsh–as does a Pac-10 school without baseball or gymnastics–but they will get little sympathy from the faculty and other employees at Berkeley. Over 500 of them have been laid off in the last year as the state infrastructure crumbles around them.
Expect to see more of this trend at publicly-financed schools around the country, especially in California, where the state just filled a $19 billion budget hole.
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