Does Cal Compete in Too Many Sports?

Pac-10 Athletic Programs (ordered from most programs to fewest per sport)
Men's Golf X X X X X X X X X X X X
Women's Golf X X X X X X X X X X X
Men's Track and Field X X X X X X X X X X
Women's Track and Field X X X X X X X X X X X X
Men's Cross Country X X X X X X X X X
Women's Cross Country X X X X X X X X X X X X
Baseball X X X X X X X X X X X
Softball X X X X X X X X X
Men's Indoor Track (MPSF) X X X X X X X X X
Women's Indoor Track (MPSF) X X X X X X X X X X
Men's Tennis X X X X X X X X
Women's Tennis X X X X X X X X X X X
Men's Soccer X X X X X
Women's Soccer X X X X X X X X X X X X
Men's Swimming and Diving X X X X X X
Women's Swimming and Diving X X X X X X X X X
Men's Rowing X X X X X X
Women's Rowing X X X X X X X
Men's Gymnastics (MPSF) X X
Women's Gymnastics X X X X X X X X
Men's Water Polo (MPSF) X X X X
Women's Water Polo (MPSF) X X X X X
Men's Wrestling X X X
Men's Volleyball (MPSF) X X X
Women's Lacrosse (MPSF) X X X
Women's Field Hockey (NorPac) X X
Men's Sports (med=9) 14 8 8 15 11 9 10 8 9 9 6 7
Women's Sports (med=11) 15 10 10 15 13 10 11 10 11 12 8 11
Totals* (med=19.5) 29 18 18 30 24 19 21 18 20 21 14 18

*Totals include football, men's and women's basketball, and women's volleyball since all Pac-10 schools are required to compete in these sports. Also included are Cal rugby and Utah men's and women's skiing.


Does the University of California carry too many sports teams? That is the philosophical question being faced right now by the university.

The issue is a very sensitive one because the loss of any teams would affect the athletes, coaches, and their contributions to the overall athletic program and university. As a result of a budget deficit, a committee has been formed to address this topic.

The Chancellor's Advisory Council on Intercollegiate Athletics Financial Sustainability will bring together eight leading members of our faculty and alumni community - professors Calvin Moore (mathematics), Fiona Doyle (materials science and engineering), Christopher Kutz (law) and Margaret Conkey (anthropology); and alumni William Ausfahl, Kathleen Correia, Robert Haas and Robert O'Donnell.

Any decision will ultimately be made by Chancellor Birgeneau.

Before anything else, the structure of the department should be closely analyzed. We all know there are several under-performing units within the department that should be reorganized right away. All of those non-athletic units that we've all come to love so much. The savings from a more efficient department can offset a good part of the budget deficit without touching any of the sports teams.

The median number of programs in the conference is 19.5 and Cal is way above this number. That's a big competitive disadvantage when everyone relies on the same two sports for the bulk of their revenues. One side note here. Colorado is barely worthy of Pac-10 membership from an overall athletic perspective with only 14 programs, 4 fewer than the next lowest total.

Many reasonable arguments can be made about what the mission of college athletics should be. In my view, the biggest benefits are keeping alumni involved and attracting attention to the university. Football is by far the most successful in this regard, and generates an enormous amount of publicity. Bringing alumni and other supporters to campus for football games (or having them watch on TV) provides amazing networking opportunities and keeps them connected to the old alma mater.

The issue of funding all these programs remains a concern. Only football and men's basketball generate more revenues than expenses. Golf breaks even in the sense that endowments cover all of the golf scholarships, but it's not clear if that includes coaches salaries and other expenses.

The one thing that's apparent is that football and basketball revenues alone are not enough to cover the expense of operating all 29 programs. The  Endowment Seating Program for football seats is an attempt to create an endowment fund large enough to operate the athletic department. With debt payments for the stadium renovations likely taking up a good amount of the ESP revenues, it remains to be seen what the ultimate impact of the ESP will be.

Without access to the financial records, it's difficult to assess how individual programs impact the department. It would be interesting to know how many scholarships are awarded by each sport. Presumably, because of Title IX issues, the number of overall scholarships is equal for men and women.

Looking around the conference, there are some interesting trends. Many sports are sponsored by the MPSF rather than the Pac-10. The MPSF organizes the smaller sports and includes universities from the western US and beyond.

Only 4 sports beyond the 4 mandatory ones have full conference participation. Those are women's cross country, women's soccer, women's track and field, and men's golf.

They're swimming in the desert, but not in the rainy northwest. None of the northwest schools carry men's swimming any longer. In 2009, Washington cut men's and women's swimming for up to $1.2 million a year in savings. Meanwhile, the Arizonas are still maintaining swimming teams.

Other schools have cut sports recently as well. In 2008, Arizona State announced it was cutting wrestling, men's swimming, and men's tennis. Wrestling and swimming were both reinstated after endowment funds were raised. Basically, ASU demanded that those teams pay for themselves in order to continue.

Amazingly, Cal rugby has won 25 national championship since 1980 without awarding any scholarships. Cal rugby is the only program in the conference (as far as i can tell) that operates as an official varsity sport. All the other rugby programs compete as club sports. It's not even clear what schools participate at the division 1 level because USA Rugby doesn't have a comprehensive list on their website.

How did Cal end up with so many sports? Rather than cutting men's sports like most universities have done to comply with Title IX, Cal added three women's sports in the early 1990's to balance things out.  Those were water polo, lacrosse and golf. That was a good move to add women's water polo and golf since those men's programs already existed.

The easiest cost savings would be to cut indoor track. I listed indoor track as a separate sport in the listings because indoor and outdoor track have separate NCAA championships. Indoor track competes during the winter season and outdoor track during the spring. Additionally, indoor track is organized by the MPSF while outdoor track is organized by the Pac-10.  Presumably, the same athletes compete in both the indoor and outdoor seasons, so the track team would continue to exist.

I can't imagine the committee touching any of the water sports. Ned Spieker is a major donor who participated in both water polo and swimming, and the quality of the Cal swimming and water polo teams is very high.There are pool upgrades underway, so there is a clear commitment to maintaining the strength of these programs.

One sport that is feeling extremely insecure is gymnastics, particularly the men's team. The Daily Cal recently posted an article about this very concern. Only Cal and furd compete in men's gymnastics on the west coast, and it's not clear if men's gymnastics will remain viable as an NCAA division 1 sport with less than 20 programs remaining.

Besides gymnastics, the sports I would consider most at risk are track, cross country, tennis, and soccer. Those sports have both men's and women's teams, so that would allow for even cuts. 

Hopefully, the new conference media contract and ESP will provide enough revenues to allow all sports to continue.

Most importantly, maintaining a highly competitive football team will benefit the entire athletic department. Another long football downturn, and teams will be chopped like we chop furd's head with the axe.

Be nice. You can find the original CGB team at

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