The Oakland Tribune is running a story today on the status of the five sports that UC Berkeley announced it was cutting last September. At the time, the university said that a worsening budget situation had rendered the school’s athletic program unsustainable, and that baseball, women’s lacrosse, and gymnastics — both men’s and women’s — would be discontinued at the end of this academic year. The plan for men’s rugby, widely considered to be the most successful varsity sport in university history, was to downgrade it to a “varsity club.”

The announcement, naturally, was met with considerable consternation by Cal fans and alumni. (The quote from former Cal baseball player Jeff Kent: ‘You’re telling me the University of California is not going to have a baseball program? … If I could put it in one word, I’m disgusted right now. I’m absolutely embarrassed to be a Cal baseball alum knowing the school is cutting the program.”)

The pressure was enough so that two months later, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour issued an apologia and an FAQ, which included a section that seemed meant to discourage any concerted effort to save the moribund teams:

Is there a possibility that some or all of teams could be reinstated? To preserve the current structure with 29 teams would require the department’s donor base to come forward with unprecedented levels of additional philanthropy…A careful analysis indicated – and we believe continues to indicate – that it would be unrealistic to expect a significant number of donors to immediately increase their giving far above current levels.

The present situation already relies upon considerable and growing levels of annual philanthropy in the form of annual and endowment giving, an amount that has exceeded $15 million per year recently. In addition, the department is in the midst of a major campaign to fund the retrofit of Memorial Stadium in order to comply with the UC Regents’ requirement that the facility be renovated. Any effective effort to “save” teams would need to be incremental to goals currently in place and could not “cannibalize” any current endeavors.

Keeping these concerns in mind, neither the campus nor department leadership believes that the Cal Athletics community is likely to be able to raise the permanent funding required to offset the expenses associated with impacted teams. To make up the difference and maintain an acceptable level of longterm support for all 29 programs would call for, at the absolute minimum, a doubling of the current Athletic Department endowment, now at just under $70 million, in a relatively short period of time…

… It has been our view that the availability of the substantial incremental philanthropic commitments necessary to prevent a reduction in scope of our IA program is and has been quite unlikely.

In the event, however, that members of the Cal Athletics community do come forward with significant incremental philanthropic commitments to provide for multiple years of operating costs for the impacted group of teams and a long-term plan for permanent funding (endowment), the campus would of course review such a proposal and consider other alternatives presented. As a pragmatic matter and in fairness to Cal’s student-athletes and coaches, who are in the process of contemplating their future academic and career plans, the uncertainty around possibility of immediate reinstatement cannot be allowed to extend longer than January 31, 2011, which would be over four months after announcement of the scope reduction.

Well that deadline has now passed, and the university, at least publicly, is considering the possibility of reinstatement. Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof told the Tribune that the “process of ‘review and analysis’ already had begun and that the chancellor hopes to make a decision as soon as Friday.”

Former Cal baseball player Doug Nickle, of Save Cal Sports, is optimistic. From the Tribune:

(Nickle said the) five programs have “conservatively” raised between $10 million and $12 million and believe they have several other potential large pledges coming this week. Nickle characterized himself as “incredibly” optimistic. “I would be shocked if we didn’t get reinstatement,” he said.

From the Save Cal Sports site:

Just a brief message to let you know that we are absolutely still moving in the right direction. The University and the Chancellor’s office have stated that our reinstatement efforts “now have their full attention.” This is great news because they’ve also now finally started getting rather specific. They have stated that the number for reinstatement of all five programs is $25 million. While we disagree with them on the final number, we can comfortably say that we are at around $15 million in pledges toward what we think will be a number between $20-$25 million…

Please keep it up and keep the pledges and donations coming! Please keep writing to the Chancellor and anyone else you feel should know how important Cal Sports are to you! Talk to your local media- we need continued attention on this very important matter and we need to keep everyone aware that we are winning this battle! We will earn reinstatement!

Similar appeals can be found on Save Cal Baseball, Save Cal Lacrosse, Save Cal Rugby, and Cal Gymnastics Forever.

The last post on Save Cal Rugby is titled “Will Cal do the right thing?

If the university doesn’t reinstate, you can be sure that a lot of people in the UC athletic community are going to be crying foul.

  • Milan Moravec

    When UC Berkeley announced its elimination of student sports including baseball, men’s, women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse teams and its defunding of the national-champion men’s rugby team, the chancellor sighed, “Sorry, but this was necessary!”
    But was it? Yes, the university is in dire financial straits. Yet $3 million was somehow found by Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau to pay the Bain consulting firm to uncover waste, inefficiencies in UC Berkeley (Cal), despite the fact that a prominent East Coast university was accomplishing the same thing without expensive consultants.
    Essentially, the process requires collecting, analyzing information from faculty, staff. Apparently, Cal senior management believe that the faculty, staff of their world-class university lacks the cognitive ability, integrity, energy to identify millions in savings. If consultants are necessary, the reason is clear: the chancellor has lost credibility with the people who provided the information to the consultants. Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau has reigned for eight years, during which time the inefficiencies proliferated to $150 million. Even as Bain’s recommendations are implemented (‘They told me to do it’, Birgeneau), credibility, trust, problems remain.
    Bain is interviewing faculty, staff, senior management and academic senate leaders to identify $150 million in inefficiencies, most of which could have been found internally. One easy-to-identify problem, for example, was wasteful procurement practices such as failing to secure bulk discounts on printers. But Birgeneau apparently has no concept of savings: even in procuring a consulting firm he failed to receive proposals from other firms.

    Students, staff, faculty, California Legislators are the victims of his incompetent decisions. Now that sports teams are feeling the pinch, perhaps the California Alumni, benefactors, donors, will demand to know why Birgeneau is raking in $500,000 a year while abdicating his work responsibilities.

    Let there be light.

    The author, who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way the senior management operates.

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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