[TwistNHook note: NorCalNick wrote up this reaction to the announced cuts to the athletics department. He was unable to post it due to technical issues. Here is what he wanted to say]
These cuts are probably necessary. Perhaps eliminating four sports and ‘demoting’ another is the only way for Cal Athletics to survive, politically and economically. But make no mistake - today is a tragic day for the Cal athletic family. When this entire process started I naïvely believed that at most only a sport or two would get cut – that anticipated revenue from the Pac-12 would be enough, or that donors would emerge, or that less drastic cost cutting measures could prevent this kind of step. Considering that, according to a letter sent out from Chancellor Birgeneau and Sandy Barbour states that even with anticipated increased revenue an athletic department early deficit of 5 million dollars is anticipated, it’s quite clear I was wrong.
There are so many reasons why this is a sad day, but let’s focus on the most important reason why: According to John Crumpacker, 13 coaches will lose their job. 13 people who are a part of the Cal community, who have spent years teaching, training and mentoring Cal student athletes, are unemployed. I would like to thank Cari DuBois, Jessica Kelley, Brian Loomis, Jennifer Grabowski, Barry Weiner, Aaron Floyd, Theresa Sherry, Nikki Lieb, Meredith Simon, David Esquer, Dan Hubbs, Tony Arnerich, and Brad Sanfilipo, for their time and dedication to our university and its students. Sadly, this list is probably not exhaustive as it doesn’t include others who may lose their job, like athletic department support staff or those in charge of facility maintenance.
Additionally, this is a major disappointment for the student athletes who stand to lose their sport. According to the above-mentioned letter the athletic department will honor all of the current scholarships they have awarded to players from cut programs. Nevertheless, it must be a jarring change for some to suddenly lose perhaps the main reason they decided to attend UC Berkeley. Many of Cal’s baseball players undoubtedly passed up instant money from the MLB draft for a chance to compete for the Bears. Those players will undoubtedly have the chance to play elsewhere in the future, but must transfer away from a university that I would hope they have grown to think of as home. In any case, it’s a tough reality.
I would like to address one argument I’ve already heard and expect to continue hearing – that these cuts were necessitated because of Title IX. I suppose in a very perverse way, that’s true. If Cal never began funding women’s athletics in the first place then the need to cut baseball and demote rugby perhaps never would have arisen. But the fact is that men’s sports and women’s sports all over campus were losing money, and in response men’s sports and women’s sports have been cut. This is not a gender issue and frankly those trying to make it one reveal their own biases. These cuts happened because college athletics in the United States has serious structural issues, issues that Ragnarok began exploring in his excellent piece from earlier today.
The bottom line is that it costs money to run a robust athletic department competing at a high level in all sports. Each university must make its own decision on how valuable that program is. The majority of the Cal community has made it clear that although we love our sports teams, there is a monetary limit to that support. I can only hope that the drastic measures taken today will absolutely ensure that the athletic department can operate in the black over the long term, and that perhaps, when future revenue sources are identified, Cal can consider bringing back certain programs after a careful analysis of their long term financial impact.
In what I assume is a coincidence, all four programs being cut are winter/spring sports and all will compete in the 2010/11 academic year. Each team will have one more shot at glory together, and I can only hope that players, coaches and the Cal community rally around their final seasons of competition. How great would it be if lacrosse ended with a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title, or if baseball made a stirring run to Omaha for the College World Series? Announcing the cuts now might hopefully give athletes and coaches an opportunity decide how they want to deal with this news, and hopefully end their final seasons on as happy a note as possible.