Stanford no longer discontinuing 11 varsity sports programs

in Sports

Stanford today announced the university no longer plans to discontinue 11 varsity sports teams at the end of this academic year, citing an effort involving alumni and supporters to raise private funds to support the programs.

Retaining all of Stanford’s 36 varsity sports programs will require “a large-scale fundraising campaign for Stanford Athletics,” Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Director of Athletics Bernard Muir stated in a letter to the Stanford community. “We will need to ask for the support of the Cardinal faithful like never before.”

The university announced in July 2020 plans to cut 11 varsity teams — 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 — due to structural financial challenges. While those financial challenges “remain very real, changed circumstances including newly galvanized philanthropic interest have provided a new path to support the 11 sports,” according to the university, citing its work on a fundraising effort with a group called 36 Sports Strong. Stanford currently has 36 varsity sports teams and has faced pushback by alumni, supporters and athletes over the decision to discontinue 11 of those programs.

Last week, two lawsuits were filed over the decision to discontinue the sports programs, but the university says the legal action didn’t prompt its reversal on the decision. Discussions with alumni and supporters on a plan to keep the programs “were already far along,” the university said.

“I am thrilled that we have found a way to continue sponsoring these varsity sports, which are an important part of the fabric of this university,” said Muir.

Added Adam Keefe, a Stanford alum who represents 36 Sports Strong, “The outpouring of goodwill energized this effort, combined with some truly innovative thinking to get us here. I can’t say thank you enough. We appreciate the willingness of Athletic Director Muir and Stanford leadership to consider a new approach, and we’re excited to see what we’ll do together.”

Stanford’s 36 teams represent twice the average number of teams at NCAA Division 1 schools, according to the university.

Photo courtesy of Stanford