Varsity teams in men’s and women’s swimming, men’s tennis and men’s golf are likely to be eliminated at Cal State Long Beach because of budget cutbacks unless money can be raised to save them, university officials say.
“If the community is sincere (about raising money), we’re not going to turn our backs,” President Curtis L. McCray said Tuesday night after an emotional community meeting at which coaches, athletes and boosters asked for the opportunity to try to save the four teams. Those four teams do not generate revenue for the university.
“This is an aquatic community,” said swimming coach Tim Shaw. “You don’t cut ice hockey at the University of Minnesota.”
Athletic Director Corey Johnson, who had told athletes earlier Tuesday that their sports face elimination, said his department may have to cut $368,000 in salaries. In addition to Shaw, others who could lose their jobs are diving coach Daryl Jorgensen, men’s tennis coach Peter Smith, and men’s golf coach Del Walker.
About 50 swimmers and divers would be affected, along with about 20 golfers and 16 tennis players.
McCray explained to a crowd of more than 150 at the Long Beach Airport Marriott Hotel that $14 million must be cut from the university’s $155-million budget by July 1. He said he directed administrators, including Johnson, “to get the budget in balance and prepare to deal with severe cuts.”
The crisis stems from the governor’s proposed budget for 1991-92, which reflects significant losses in state revenue.
“We have major problems,” Johnson said. “Expenses are not going down in athletics. We can’t maintain all the programs, but we have to maintain Division I status (in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.).”
If the four sports teams are dropped, CSULB would have 14 (seven men’s, seven women’s), the minimum to stay in Division I, the top college sports division.
Johnson indicated that officials did not consider dropping football, which was almost eliminated during a financial crunch four years ago. College administrators decided to retain football after boosters raised about $300,000.
He expressed concern at the meeting, however, that fund-raising efforts on behalf of each of the jeopardized sports might be piecemeal, and indicated that enough money would have to be raised to guarantee a program for two years.
He also cautioned that the proposals could adversely affect efforts to raise money for the general athletic fund, which pays for scholarships for all sports. About $545,000 has been raised toward a goal of $600,000 for the general fund this year, according to Steve Holton, associate athletic director.
Some people at the meeting threatened to quit donating money if the four sports teams are dropped.
But Daniel Gooch, a member of the 49er Athletic Foundation, told the athletic director: “If you allow us to raise $16,500 to save golf, I’ll pledge an additional $5,000 for your general fund.”
Gooch believes that money needed to save golf (about $40,000) can be raised. He said a fund-raising plan will be presented to school officials, but he also wants assurances that Cal State officials will fund the smaller sports if there is an economic turnaround.
Committees representing swimming and tennis are also expected to be formed in an effort to save those sports.
Don Dyer, a longtime 49er fund-raiser, thinks that golf will be saved but that tennis and swimming face greater obstacles, especially swimming, which would have to raise $120,000 to $130,000.
Johnson has indicated that he wants to have the matter resolved quickly so athletes will have time to pursue opportunities at other colleges. After the April 17 signing date, scholarships might not be available.
The four sports teams that face extinction have a total of only eight scholarships, compared with 66 for football
But the four have been successful through the years, despite being forced to use mostly walk-on athletes because of the few scholarships available.
“When we go to other schools, they look at us with respect,” an unidentified swimmer said to Johnson and McCray Tuesday night. “Our football team is a mockery. We get little money and we don’t ask for much.”
The men’s and women’s swimming teams finished third this season in the Big West Conference tournament.
Others in the audience pointed out the high grade-point averages of athletes in these sports.
“You have kids who are academically sound and have come here for the school and the sport,” said Jorgensen, the diving coach. “They’re selling them both. What more can they expect out of a program?”
Johnson and McCray appeared surprised when told of the rich tradition of swimming in Long Beach.
“That tells me they made a hasty decision without being concerned with the athletes,” Jorgensen said.
Smith, the tennis coach and a tennis player at the university in the mid-1980s, did not seem optimistic about raising $100,000 to save his job and his sport.
“It’s tough for me to swallow,” he said. “College athletics has become one big business.”
SPORTS SPARED The following 14 sports would be spared at Cal State Long Beach. Men Football Basketball Baseball Track Volleyball Cross-country Water polo Women Tennis Basketball Softball Track Volleyball Cross-country Golf