Stanford cuts 11 sports as coronavirus slams college athletic budgets

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Stanford University will cut 11 of its Division I varsity sports programs and fire a number of coaches due to budgetary constraints related to the coronavirus pandemic, school officials said Wednesday.

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The school will discontinue men’s fencing, women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling. A total of 20 support staffers will be laid off as part of the changes.

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In a letter to the school community, Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and other top officials said the pandemic exacerbated existing budgetary problems within the athletic department. Stanford’s projected athletic deficit for its 2021 fiscal year doubled to $25 million due to the impact of COVID-19 and was expected to approach $70 million prior to the cuts.

“We now face the reality that significant change is needed to create fiscal stability for Stanford Athletics, and to provide the support we believe is essential for our student-athletes to excel,” the Stanford administrators said in the letter.

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The 11 programs represent 240 student-athletes and 22 coaches at Stanford. The affected individuals learned about the decision by Zoom conference on Wednesday.

The school’s teams play in the Pac-12 Conference, considered one of the NCAA’s “Power Five” based on resources.

Stanford explored other methods of funding the programs, including “ticket sales, broadcast revenue, university funding, philanthropic support, operating budget reductions and many others – and found them insufficient to meet the magnitude of the financial challenge before us,” the officials added.

Top NCAA athletic programs have been under pressure in recent weeks due to the pandemic. NCAA officials were forced to cancel the “March Madness” basketball tournaments, the most lucrative event in college sports, as part of nationwide shutdowns.

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