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Stanford will cut 11 varsity sports programs in 2021

Stanford synchronized swimmers compete in the 2007 national championships in Indianapolis.
Stanford synchronized swimmers compete in the 2007 national championships in Indianapolis. The program is one of 11 being eliminated by the university following the 2020-2021 school year.
(Tom Strickland / Associated Press)

Stanford is cutting 11 of its 36 varsity sports programs — including wrestling, field hockey and men’s volleyball — following the upcoming academic year.

In an open letter published Wednesday, university President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and athletic director Bernard Muir also announced the elimination of 20 support staff positions.

“Providing 36 varsity teams with the level of support that they deserve has become a serious and growing financial challenge,” the letter read. “We now face the reality that significant change is needed to create fiscal stability for Stanford Athletics, and to provide the support we believe is essential for our student-athletes to excel.

“In that context, we are writing today with some extremely difficult news. In consultation with the Board of Trustees, we have made the decision to reduce the breadth of our athletics programs and staffing.”

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The other programs that will be eliminated are men’s and women’s fencing, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash and synchronized swimming. According to the letter, the 11 sports were chosen after “a comprehensive evaluation” of the university’s athletic programs, with considerations that included local and national fan interest in the sport, potential savings from the elimination of the sport, and the history and prospects for future success of the sport at Stanford.

As their children return to campus, parents of athletes at UCLA and USC say the schools need to take a safety-first approach to the coronavirus.

The news was delivered to all those affected by the move Wednesday during a Zoom conference.

Stanford will honor all existing athletic scholarship commitments to the student-athletes and the contracts of the coaches. Severance pay will be provided to support staff members losing their jobs.

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“While painful, the discontinuation of these 11 sports at the varsity level and the associated reductions in our support staff will create a path for Stanford Athletics to return to fiscal stability while maintaining gender equity and competitiveness,” the letter read. “It will ultimately enhance the experience of the remaining student-athletes and increase their likelihood of competing for national championships for years to come.”


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