UC Berkeley Cuts Historic Baseball & Rugby Teams

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

Academic and athletic tradition is everything at many universities, but financial realities in the face of a grim recession -- and gender equity -- are forcing one institution to do away with storied sports programs. The University of California at Berkeley is cutting several varsity teams to close a budget gap, including men's baseball and rugby.

Both sports have been mainstays at the school for more than a century. The rugby team, in fact, has been a collegiate powerhouse, winning 25 national championships since 1980. It will still be around, however, just in a diminished capacity. It has been demoted to a "varsity club," although the meaning of that has not been clearly defined.

But it is the end of the line for baseball after the 2011-2012 school year, along with men's and women's gymnastics, and lacrosse. The baseball program started in 1892. To put this in perspective, the team is as old as baseball itself. Just the eight original National League teams (Reds, Pirates, etc.) have been around longer than the Cal team. It is older than such franchises as the Yankees and Red Sox, which started up along with the rival American League in 1901.

"I think it's awful. I think it's embarrassing that a Pac-10 school is going to cancel their baseball program," Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow, a former Cal baseball player, told the Associated Press.

"Everyone deeply regrets the human toll these decisions take," Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said at a news conference. "The cutting of teams is over. This is it. (It) will result in a sustainable, financially responsible" department.

Cal's athletic department expenses are $69 million, but revenues are only $57 million. The university makes up the rest. It wants to lower its contribution to no more than $5 million starting in 2014, an amount it considers "sustainable."

"Cal athletics is not immune to the effects of the recession and the financial realities on campus," said athletic director Sandy Barbour. "Making sports cuts was the best available option. The impact of this decision is far-reaching. I am deeply saddened by the impact this decision will have."

In addition to money, the decision to remove the rugby team was made so that the school could comply with Title IX, which requires schools offer equal opportunities to male and female athletes.

"You can say it. I'm not going to," rugby coach Jack Clark said when asked if his sport was a victim of Title IX. "There are an awful lot of people counting on me for leadership in this. I want to be well-informed and responsible."