Supporters of Cal baseball have planned a rally Saturday morning at Evans Diamond and hope to make their first public demonstration of solidarity among the five sports eliminated last week by the university administration.
In an effort to trim $4 million annually from athletics spending, the university announced on Sept. 28 the elimination of baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics and lacrosse, along with the demotion of rugby to varsity club status, all effective at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
The baseball rally, prior to Saturday’s afternoon football game against UCLA, will begin at about 9:30 a.m. Supporters are encouraged to bring their baseball gloves and food for what will be a tailgate atmosphere.
Former Cal and major league baseball players Darren Lewis, Kevin Maas and John Baker will be on hand to talk with fans and do media interviews.
Cal lacrosse coach Theresa Sherry said her team “definitely will have a presence” at Evans Diamond and confirmed possible plans to march together to Memorial Stadium to meet with supporters of the rugby team.
The rugby support group is not staging a formal event but plans to distribute flyers directing fans to its Facebook page and its website — www.savecalrugby.com — where rugby boosters are being
encouraged to e-mail chancellor Robert Birgeneau and vice chancellor Frank Yeary and vow not to make donations of any kind to Cal until their sport is reinstated.
Shaun Paga, a former Cal rugby and football player who is helping to organize the rugby support group, said the focus now is about educating the alumni.
“Right now, we’re kind of recording support,” Paga said, “and support is very strong for reinstatement of rugby.”
While rugby has substantial private financial backing, many or all of the affected programs may ultimately organize jointly in their efforts to save their sports.
“The unified message coming from the athletic department is that you can’t bring back one, this is a package deal,” said Andre Hampy, a former two-time gymnastics national champion at Cal and spokesman for Cal Gymnastics Forever. “Until that message changes from the athletic department, I think (banding together) is our only choice.”
“It’s the only way to go,” echoed baseball’s Tulk. “Title IX (gender equity requirements) kind of drives that spirit, too. We feel there’s no sport that’s been eliminated that feels any different than we do.”
Cal baseball alums are gathering Friday in Walnut Creek for a long-planned golf event and reunion dinner. Added to the agenda now is a meeting to discuss options and formulate a strategy for moving forward in the effort to save the sport.
Lacrosse’s Sherry said there has been significant reaction to the cuts among the growing Northern California community in her sport, adding, “I think it’s important for all the sports’ constituents to work together and be on the same page.”
She hopes that a unified group can determine exactly what needs to take place beyond fundraising to revive the programs, then develop a plan.
New Cal men’s gymnastics coach Tim McNeill, hired to a one-year contract on Aug. 25, said everyone involved needed time to digest what happened last week before regrouping.
“It’s hard to say I’m optimistic, but I certainly am hopeful,” he said. “I certainly haven’t given up by any means. No one has given up. We’re definitely going to fight this with everything we have.”