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University of California rugby coach Jack Clark, right, reacts to the announcement by university Chancellor Robert Birgeneau of plans to cut several varsity athletics programs, including baseball and gymnastics, and making rugby a varsity club sport, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in Berkeley, Calif. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

One day after Cal cut five sports from its intercollegiate athletics menu, there was no surrender among those affected in rugby or baseball.

While two key members of the baseball team said they hope to compete for a berth in the College World Series next spring, rugby coach Jack Clark went on the offensive Wednesday.

Clark, who has directed 21 of Cal's 25 national championship teams in the sport, said there is no reason the university needed to cut rugby, saying it's largely financially self-sufficient thanks to private donations.

He said he proposed to athletic director Sandy Barbour and the university administration adding a women's varsity rugby team, which would balance gender equity issues mandated by Title IX federal law.

And he said that reclassifying rugby from varsity level to a new varsity club status won't allow the program to maintain its elite competitive level.

"Yesterday was the worst day of my life. This almost seems surreal," Clark said. "I've literally woken up every morning of my life for 30 years and tried to bring credit to this university "... tried to make Cal people more proud of Cal.

"And to have my university demote my sport and then aggressively defend the decision, which was my take of yesterday, it rips my heart out."

Primarily, Clark disputes the notion that everything will be basically the same with rugby given varsity club status. He said the team would be required to pay to get services from sports medicine and lift weights at the new High Performance Center.


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Vice-Chancellor Frank Yeary said Tuesday that rugby would have access to both at "incremental cost" to the program.

That changes the equation, Clark said.

"The one thing that Cal rugby guys always wanted was, don't build a new stadium, but give us an opportunity to athletically validate ourselves," he said. "That's what this varsity status is about. I don't think they appreciated that."

Clark said he met with Barbour and Yeary on Monday, and that Chancellor Robert Birgeneau stopped by briefly. At that time, Clark said, he shared a report that demonstrates rugby-driven corporate sponsorships have totaled $300,000 for the athletic department.

He argued that rugby could financially sustain a women's varsity equivalent, which would share facilities and remove the gender-equity obstacle. And he said it's not too late to make that happen, although he received notice Tuesday morning of his termination, effective the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year.

"I told them I want to create a dynamic women's rugby team, where we're going to create Olympians and national champions," Clark said. "That's the spirit of Title IX, growing women's opportunities. It's unfortunate that it's turned into some kind of a math test that ends up reducing men's (programs)."

Two of Cal's young baseball players also seem unwilling to go away quietly.

"My goal is to have us come out with so much more motivation and show the school they made a mistake," said junior shortstop Marcus Semien, an El Cerrito native who hit .328 last spring. "We're on a mission to go crazy, have fun and make history."

"We have one more year here," said infielder Tony Renda, a former Serra High-San Mateo star who hit .373 as a freshman last season. "We have a team that can go to the World Series -- that's how we think."

Semien, who hopes to be drafted by a major league team in the spring, is the child of two former Cal students. His father, Damien Semiem, was a star receiver for the Golden Bears in the 1990s.

"I grew up here," he said. "I was born here."

Renda was raised with no such blood allegiances but feels like he's part of a family at Cal.

"I'll miss it. It's hard to imagine," said Renda, who plans to transfer to another school next fall. "That's honestly one of the hardest thing to deal with -- not being around these coaches, the team, the school, everything that goes with being a Cal student-athlete."