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Cal Athletics reportedly projecting $21.7 million loss in 2016; sports cuts coming?


Stanford And Berkeley Rank Among Top 3 Universities In The World Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Cal Athletics is still running deep in the red. Changes could be brewing. Jon Wilner has more.

Five years after a heated effort to save multiple Cal sports, it appears economic realities are making it clear some Olympic sports are in danger of not surviving. After Cal baseball, rugby, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse were chopped and then revived through aggressive fundraising, the athletic department is mulling again putting sports on the chopping block. They’re even considering radical cutbacks to the athletic department. Here are the options being considered.

Sources believe there are three potential outcomes:

♦ The university could re-commit to its current model but with long-term, sport-specific endowments to fund operations and with an additional $10 million (or more) in annual support from central campus. Currently, the Bears receive a subsidy of $5 million per year.

♦ The university could return to the 2010 approach and eliminate a handful of teams — this time for good.

♦ Or Cal could choose to make drastic cuts, downsizing all the way to a model of just 16 or 17 sports. (The NCAA minimum is 14.)

Opinion from your editor: Perhaps a sport or two would help cut into the financial losses, although it should be carefully considered which sports should end up being phased out. A drastic drawback would be disastrous.

Cal is not losing that much money from their Olympic sports. Well, they are, as all non-revenue sports do throughout college athletics, but generally football and men’s basketball does a good job making up that revenue and cancelling it all out. Cutting successful sports also has the danger of major donors heavily invested in those sports (and yes, they do exist) reducing their overall contributions to the university.

The issue remains the same: Cal Athletics dug themselves a hole with an ill-advised plan to repay the debut incurred in the Memorial Stadium upgrade. Cal is on average expected to lose $17.6 million on stadium repayments, which as you can see makes up over 80% of the yearly budget deficit the athletic department must account for. Cutting sports would put a band-aid on the problem, but unless Cal plans to cut every major Olympic program, they will come nowhere close to solving their deficit issues.

I’d recommend more of the same programs that Cal has used to reduce their subsidies—more neutral site games that generate hundreds of thousands (or in the case of the Australia game, a million) dollars of revenue, more annoying advertisements at football and basketball games, leasing Cal athletic space like Memorial Stadium private suites for important 1% events, etc. etc.

What are your thoughts? What is the way forward for Cal Athletics?