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Stanford to Eliminate 11 of 36 Varsity Programs

Stanford University announced this week that it will be eliminating nearly a third of its varsity sports programs following the 2020-21 academic year.

Eleven of the school’s 36 varsity sports have been cut and include the following: 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.

Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, provost Persis Drell, and director of athletics Bernard Muir issued a joint public letter, calling the “significant change” necessary for the future of Stanford athletics.

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Photo: Ed & Eddie / Creative Commons

“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,” the letter read.

The university is the first Power Five school to cut any athletic programs. In addition to the slashing of programs, Stanford also announced that the school is eliminating the jobs of 20 support staff as part of the realignment.

The 11 programs consist of more than 240  student-athletes and 22 coaches. They were built by more than 4,000 alumni whose contributions led to 20 national championships, 27 Olympic medals, and an untold number of academic and professional achievements, according to the letter.

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“We understand that the timing of this announcement, in early summer and against a backdrop of uncertainty and change across our country, is certainly far from ideal, as is the method by which we had to deliver the news to our student-athletes and coaches today, via Zoom,” the Stanford figureheads wrote in their open letter. “However, we felt it was imperative to confront the financial challenge before it worsened, to undertake a deliberate and collaborative decision-making process with our Board of Trustees and campus leadership, and to exhaust all alternatives before making profound changes in our programs, especially during this difficult time. That process has recently come to a conclusion, and we wanted to share the news as quickly as possible in order to provide our student-athletes and staff with as much flexibility and choice as possible. Given the timing, we determined that offering these 11 programs the opportunity for one final season of varsity competition in 2020-21 was the right thing to do.”

To read the full open letter from Stanford athletics on eliminating 11 of its 36 athletic programs after the 2020-21 season, click here