Dear Commons Community,
Ten months after revealing plans to eliminate eleven of its varsity athletic programs, Stanford University announced yesterday that they would not be discontinued after all, ending a battle between the university and the supporters of those sports.
University leaders, in announcing the reversal, cited improvements in the school’s investments and also said supporters of the programs had helped reveal a new path toward funding the sports — 10 of which are featured at the Olympics.
Celebrations rippled through campus when teams heard their programs would be saved just weeks before they were set to lose their varsity status. Players on the men’s volleyball team shouted and hugged and shoved each other in a giant celebratory mosh pit in their dormitory. Some rowers on the men’s crew team high-fived and whooped outside of their boathouse post-practice, while others fell to the ground in tears of relief.
Women on the fencing team came together in a group chat to share their joy, thrilled that their beloved program would survive, yet still disappointed that the university had initially not seen enough value in their sport to keep it.
“It’s hard to say exactly why Stanford changed their mind, but cutting the sports was a huge P.R. problem and huge bad look for them,” Kyler Presho, a senior on the men’s volleyball team, said. “We were relentless in giving them every reason to reconsider and we just didn’t go away. In the end, hey, it worked.”
Jeremy Jacobs, a former Stanford volleyball player who helped lead the 36 Sports Strong advocacy group that worked to keep the 11 sports, broke the news to the volleyball team Tuesday in a videoconference. As he told the team, “We’re back,” players began to cheer and he began to cry.
“This past year was a nightmare and we’re going to make sure this never happens again,” he told them before regrouping.
He added, “I know that there have been a lot of hard feelings and anger toward Stanford because of this, but we’re pretty lucky in some respects because they did listen and we did feel heard.”
Last July, Stanford said the cuts were a last resort and blamed “the harsh new financial realities imposed by Covid-19,” blindsiding both the coaches and the athletes who were affected. This season would be the last for those sports, the university said.
This is a welcome reversal of Stanford’s earlier decision!