Feature photo of Stanford's campus courtesy of Stanford Athletics.
STANFORD, Calif. - Bolstered by an improved financial picture with increased fundraising potential, Stanford will continue 11 varsity sports that had been slated for discontinuation at the end of this academic year.
Stanford leaders announced today that while the structural financial challenges facing Stanford Athletics remain very real, changed circumstances including newly galvanized philanthropic interest have provided a new path to support the 11 sports.
"We have new optimism based on new circumstances, including vigorous and broad-based philanthropic interest in Stanford Athletics on the part of our alumni, which have convinced us that raising the increased funds necessary to support all 36 of our varsity teams is an approach that can succeed," said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.
In recent weeks and months Stanford officials have been engaging with groups of alumni, including the 36 Sports Strong group, that have been seeking to raise private funds to support Stanford's teams. Stanford's 36 varsity teams represent twice the average number of teams at NCAA Division I schools, and the university made the difficult decision last July to discontinue 11 of the teams due to a growing structural budget deficit in the athletics program.
Retaining all 36 teams will require a large-scale fundraising campaign for Stanford Athletics, and "we will need to ask for the support of the Cardinal faithful like never before," Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Director of Athletics Bernard Muir wrote in a letter to the Stanford community announcing the decision.
The 11 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 – will continue competing as varsity teams at Stanford.
"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. "I believe the future is extremely bright for Stanford Athletics and am eager to begin the important work of galvanizing our community and cementing Stanford's position of leadership and excellence in intercollegiate sports."
"I want to acknowledge Bernard Muir and his executive team for their leadership," Tessier-Lavigne said. "Bernard has been a staunch advocate for all student-athletes at every stage, both when we collectively faced the wrenching decision to discontinue sports, and as we have worked to construct this new path as circumstances changed for better. We look forward with him to a bright future for Stanford Athletics."
"I also want to acknowledge the 36 Sports Strong group, as well numerous other alumni and supporters, for their thoughtful outreach, philanthropic support and constructive partnership in envisaging a path forward."
Adam Keefe and Jennifer Azzi, Stanford alums and representatives of 36 Sports Strong, praised the outcome.
"Alumni and supporters rallied behind a different solution. The outpouring of goodwill energized this effort, combined with some truly innovative thinking to get us here," said Keefe, who played men's basketball and volleyball at Stanford between 1989 and 1992. "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."
"My heart is full of joy for the students who are getting their teams back. How they performed on and off the field represents the very best of Stanford," said Azzi, a member of the Stanford women's basketball team from 1987 to 1990. "They deserve a lot of credit. And, as an Olympian myself, I hope Stanford's action will inspire other NCAA schools in their continued support of their Olympic sports programs. I'm eager to see many Cardinal compete this summer, in Paris in 2024, and especially when we host the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028."
Stanford officials noted that while they were aware of two lawsuits filed on this subject last week, "our discussions with 36 Sports Strong and other constituencies were already far along, and we reached the conclusion we are announcing today independent of their filing. We were disappointed by these suits since it was well known that we were engaged in these discussions, and we are pleased to be embarking on a more positive path."