Stanford University announced Wednesday that it will cut nearly one-third of its Division I sports programs at the end of the 2020-21 academic year as the COVID-19 crisis has threatened to worsen an already existing athletics department deficit. The move will affect more than 240 student-athletes and 22 coaches, according to a letter from school leadership.
The 11 sports that will be discontinued are as follows: men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men's rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball and wrestling. University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, provost Persis Drell and athletic director Bernard Muir signed the letter which detailed the "heartbreaking news."
"The decision to discontinue these 11 varsity sports programs comes down primarily to finances and competitive excellence," the letter said. "With so many varsity sports and limited financial resources, we would no longer be able to support a world-class athletics experience for our student-athletes without making these changes."
Stanford joins a growing list of universities that have cut athletic programs amid the pandemic, which wiped out the 2020 men's and women's NCAA Basketball Tournaments, cut spring sports seasons short and is now threatening to disrupt college football, which is a major revenue source for most Division I athletic departments.
The Cardinal have long supported more athletic programs than most Division I universities. But the letter said that supporting a total of 36 teams had "become a serious and growing financial challenge." Stanford is planning to honor its scholarship commitments to the student-athletes whose teams are being eliminated. The letter also said that contracts of affected coaches will be honored.
"The primary alternative to this decision would have been a broad and deep reduction in support for all 36 of our varsity sports, including the elimination of scholarships and the erosion of our efforts to attract and retain the high-caliber coaches and staff needed to provide an unparalleled scholar-athletics experience," the letter said. "After considering the effects of this model, we determined that operating our varsity athletics programs in this manner would be antithetical to Stanford's values and our determination to be excellent in all that we do."