The University of California at Berkeley will eliminate five sports teams next year, including baseball, making the Pac-10 powerhouse one of the most prominent athletics programs to adopt wholesale cuts during the economic downturn.
Berkeley will reduce its number of teams to 24 as part of an effort to trim its athletics subsidy, which was about $13-million last year, to $5-million by 2014, the university announced today. The current level of spending has caused an uproar among faculty members, who have called on the university to stop subsidizing the athletics department altogether.
Robert J. Birgeneau, Berkeley's chancellor, said the amount the university spends on athletics "is not sustainable for our campus in a time of drastic state budget cuts to the university that are affecting all of our faculty, staff, and students."
Few public universities field as many teams as Berkeley does now. Starting next year, it will drop baseball, men's and women's gymnastics, and women's lacrosse, and it will demote its championship men's rugby team, from a varsity sport to a self-supporting club team.
Dozens of institutions have cut teams during the economic downturn, and broad-based athletics programs everywhere face an uncertain future. But Berkeley, a perennial contender in the Pacific-10 Conference, is the most prominent program in recent memory to eliminate so many teams in response to financial pressures.
Berkeley's $13-million allocation to athletics in the 2009 financial year was only somewhat above the median subsidy for all Division I-A teams, $10.2-million, but Berkeley officials said it was more than double the median subsidy of programs in the Pac-10.
A report in July from a committee of Berkeley faculty and alumni criticized the spending behavior of the athletics department, saying the department "has been playing by a very different set of budgetary rules from the rest of the campus." On Tuesday, a professor emeritus who helped write that report, Calvin C. Moore, praised the decision to eliminate teams, saying it was sad but necessary to save money and keep the remaining teams competitive.