Cal officials, while respectful of fundraising efforts, have shown little public inclination to reverse their decision. One source close to the situation described a “wall of silence” from the school in providing details to those interested in saving the programs.
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced the cuts Sept. 28, as a way to save nearly $4 million annually. The athletic department had a $12 million operating deficit in the most recent fiscal year; money from student registration fees and the chancellor’s discretionary fund covered the gap.
Given university-wide layoffs and cutbacks in this tumultuous economic climate, faculty members pressured Birgeneau to make similar sacrifices in athletics. The school ultimately decided it must limit its annual contribution to the athletic department to $5 million starting in 2014.
The university previously established Monday’s deadline, including it in an informational posting on the athletic department website. Many of the 163 affected student athletes need resolution as they contemplate whether to stay in Berkeley or transfer.
“We have an obligation to the student athletes, coaches and staff to clear up the lingering uncertainty,” Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof said. “We can’t allow that to go on – it’s debilitating. This is not a deadline for checks in hand. It will be time for a serious reality check.”
As this plays out behind the scenes, baseball coach David Esquer tries to point his team toward its upcoming and potentially final season. Three players left Cal at the semester break, transferring to UCLA (pitcher Eric Jaffe), Penn State (pitcher Joe Kurrasch) and Fresno City College (infielder Brett Bishop).
That leaves 35 players about to start practice as a final decision on the program’s fate nears.
“I’m optimistic because I believe in the people behind the efforts,” Esquer said. “I’m optimistic we’ll get this done and reason will prevail.”
And if the school announces it’s still cutting the sports?
“That would be an emotional hurdle for our guys,” he said.
Golden Bear numbers
5 – Cal sports slated to lose varsity status July 1: Baseball, men’s rugby, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s gymnastics
5 – Days until school-imposed deadline for decision on whether to reinstate the sports
163 – Athletes in the condemned sports
814 – Total athletes in Cal sports
1892 – Cal’s first year of baseball
$940,000 – Net loss for Cal baseball last fiscal year, highest of the condemned sports
$15 million – Money pledged to “Save Cal Sports”
$25 million – School-set target to reinstate the five sports
$80 million – Money needed to endow baseball, lacrosse and gymnastics so they are self-sustaining