UC Berkeley announced Friday that its men's baseball and gymnastics programs will be eliminated at the end of 2010-11 school year but that men's rugby and women's gymnastics and lacrosse have been spared.

Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary said that baseball did not come close to generating enough private funding to save the 119-year-old program.

"The challenge for baseball was bigger," he said. "They needed four to five to six times as much as they raised to have been in a position to be maintained."

However, Cal baseball coach David Esquer said he doesn't think the battle is over.

"I don't think you're going to be writing the obituary of Cal baseball at this point in time," he said. "This is obviously a huge setback. I believe at some point in time, maybe not in my time here at Cal, that there will be Cal baseball again. I believe that. I really do."

Yeary said that of the $25 million targeted by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to save the five sports for a period of seven to 10 years, baseball's costs required supporters to raise $10 million. He said their figure was in the range of $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

Yeary explained that supporters of the five sports raised $12 million to $13 million, of which at least $8 million was without strings attached. The remaining amount came from donors whose money may have been earmarked for baseball or men's gymnastics.


Advertisement

The $8 million is sufficient to operate the three sports that were saved while they develop a plan for permanent self-sufficient status. The amount that baseball generated would have kept the program afloat for only two years, according to Cal officials.

"From the very beginning, we said we could not afford stopgap measures; we needed to move on to permanent solutions," Yeary said.

Doug Nickle, a former Cal baseball player who helped organize the Save Cal Sports group, argued that the amount of money raised in four months should have persuaded the university to show more patience.

"Is it not easily conceivable that with two years we could do what it takes to endow these two programs for life?" he said. "I don't think that's a stretch."

The university had announced in September that all five sports would be eliminated after this school year to save the athletic department $4 million annually.

But a news release issued by the university Friday said the decision to drop baseball and men's gymnastics, and keeping the other three sports in question, has Cal athletics on track to operate under a cap of no more than $5 million annually from the general campus fund by 2014.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour said there may be an opportunity in the future to bring back baseball, but only if it becomes privately endowed. Yeary said that the neither baseball nor men's gymnastics will be on the 2011-12 athletic calendar.

Of the 24 NCAA Division I level athletic programs in the state, Cal will be the only one without a baseball team.

"All of our programs at Cal have a rich history and tradition and meaningful opportunities for student-athletes," Barbour said. "To lose any of them is certainly a sad day for us."

Cal has fielded a baseball team since 1892, and it won national championships in 1947 and 1957. Ten former Cal baseball players will be on the rosters of major league teams when spring training begins next week, including Oakland A's pitcher Tyson Ross.

The Bears open their 2011 season Feb. 18 at home against Utah.

"We're all mad," said second baseman Tony Renda, a graduate of Serra High in San Mateo and a freshman All-American this past season. "Thirty-six of us stuck around and we're going to give this thing a go. We're a dangerous team. We're really good. And we're playing for ourselves."

One source told the Bay Area News Group that the property where Evans Diamond sits is coveted by the university for nonathletic purposes, but Birgeneau said Friday that the school has no current plans for such use.

Men's gymnastics, which began competition at Cal in 1922, won four NCAA team titles from 1968 to 1998 and has had top-10 finishes in 13 of the past 14 seasons. However, the sport slowly has been squeezed from athletic agendas on the West Coast, with Stanford the only other Pac-10 school to field a team.

Friday's survivors didn't feel much like celebrating the news.

"I am thrilled for my ladies and future young gymnasts," Cal women's gymnastics coach Cari DuBois said from Tempe, Ariz., where the Bears were competing Friday night against Arizona State. "But I definitely have mixed emotions because I'm saddened for the men's teams that weren't reinstated. We train with the men every day."

Cal rugby coach Jack Clark, whose team was playing Friday at an event in Las Vegas, said he was grateful that his program was reinstated to varsity status, rather than demoted to a club sport.

"We always believed our place was in intercollegiate athletics, and I'm glad we were given an opportunity by the university to make our case," he said. "We're really humbled to be a part of intercollegiate athletics next season and beyond."

Rugby is UC Berkeley's most successful sports program, having won 25 national championships since 1980, including the 2010 title this past spring.

A nonscholarship varsity sport at Berkeley, rugby largely has been supported through private funding. Rugby will retain its varsity status but now must shoulder all direct and indirect costs, including coaches salaries and use of Cal's training and sports medicine facilities.

The university said that rugby contributions were sufficient to help support women's gymnastics and lacrosse.

The two women's programs may have survived because Cal would have been in violation of Title IX federal gender-equity laws had they been cut. Doing so would have required the university to slice as many as 80 athletes from its men's teams and add 50 to its women's rosters to meet Title IX requirements for proportionality.

"When we originally decided to cut them, we knew there would be some Title IX roster management that would be required," Yeary said.