• August 31, 2015

Berkeley Will Eliminate 5 Teams After Faculty Outcry Over Athletics Subsidy

Berkeley Will Eliminate 5 Teams After Faculty Outcry 1


The University of California at Berkeley will cut its baseball team next year.

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The University of California at Berkeley will cut its baseball team next year.

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.


1. washingtonwarrior - September 29, 2010 at 08:38 am

Football, of course, wasn't cut. Surprise... Surprise...

2. tbstoller - September 29, 2010 at 08:55 am

Since I work for a (much, much smaller) University that is in the midst of a plan to build its stature through athletics, I am not surprised that the athletic budget has gotten so out of hand. I do have two questions:

1. How much of the 13 million dollars spent on athletics came from these sports and where were the other cuts made?
2. I wonder how they chose which teams got the axe?

3. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 09:17 am

If football were to be cut many more sports would probably have had to go as well. If you're looking to balance the books you don't get rid of your major revenue stream. I wish it weren't so -- in other words, I wish there were more balance in various sports' abilities to sustain themselves financially -- but that's reality.

4. sagrube - September 29, 2010 at 09:22 am

I certainly understand the need to make difficult financial decisions during an economic downturn. As I'm not intimately familiar with UCs financial health (other than the occasional news article), I'll be an optimist and assume the administration made cuts that make the most sense for UC-Berkeley. I do however feel bad for the student athletes that are impacted by this decision. Athletics certainly shouldn't create financial ruin, but I also recognize athletics is an important part of the co-curricular experience. The student athletes that will be impacted by this decisions will lost an important part of their experience at UC Berkeley. I would guess many of them, especially the more talented, will look for opportunities to participate at other institutions.

5. washingtonwarrior - September 29, 2010 at 09:28 am

cmsmw - Do some research on this subject. The overwhelming majority of Division I football programs do not make money. In fact, football programs are very expensive (80 scholarships, equipment, meals, lodging on the road and the night prior to home games). If schools cut their football programs, they would have enough funds to support 30 men's and women's athletic programs with the surplus of funds.

6. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 09:55 am

I'm getting a little tired of having to hold people's hands and walk them through this topic, but here we go again. Washingtonwarrior, like many other commentors here, confuses the numbers for football and the numbers for athletic departments as a whole. Most athletic departments don't make money, and many football programs don't either (at my institution, for example), but football is actually quite profitable at Cal. For the twelve months ending in August 2009 (the latest figures available), Cal football generated $27.7 million in revenue, for a profit of $8.6 million.

One can legitimately question some financial decisions made with football in mind (the stadium renovation being perhaps at the top of that list), but Cal football's revenue exceeds its normal operating expenses by a healthy margin. Eliminating football will do exactly nothing to help any other sport at that university.



7. bjackerson - September 29, 2010 at 10:11 am

To #1, Washingtonwarrior .. of course football wasn't cut. Football and men's basketball subsidize the rest of the athletic programs. Without them the entire athletic department would have to be subsidized or closed. This is one of the driving factors in the "professionslaization" of college sports, the need to make money to subsidize all the other non-revenue generating sports.

8. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 10:29 am

Just an addendum: One of my links in my previous comment shows that I went through the NC State University Library system to get to that source. I did my Ph.D. at NC State, but the institution I referred to anonymously in my comment is my current one, a regional public university in the Midwest.

9. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

The link in question accessible without needing an NC State login:

(I didn't explicitly link through NC State -- I must have been already logged in to my old library account and it whisked me through that route somehow.)

Summary of University of California at Berkeley football expenses and revenues for the twelve months ending on June 30, 2009:

Revenues: $27,747,396
Operating expenses: $5,096,961
Total expenses: $19,122,925
Profit: $8,624,471

10. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 10:49 am

Ha. It did it again. I give up. :-D

11. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

And on campus, rather than at home, it's *not* showing the NCSU library stuff in the URLs. Sorry for any confusion -- apparently it's all on my machine.

Move along -- nothing to see here.

12. nativepoet - September 29, 2010 at 11:45 am

I guess without ES Professors to give them A's SPort at Cal is taking a nose dive.
Indigenous people rock! read my blog and free my people!

13. rbenford - September 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

It's a myth that football constitues a "revenue stream" as stated in comment #3. Only a handful of Division I football teams operate in the black. Rather most are revenue draining sports.

14. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm

rbenford: Did you even read the rest of the thread? The issue here is the particular case of UC-Berkeley, and in this case football is quantifiably, and significantly, revenue-producing.

15. rbenford - September 29, 2010 at 01:22 pm

cmsmw: If you believe those data, I've got a house in Florida I'll sell you. Athletic departments keep 3 sets of books: one for the NCAA and other auditors, one for public consumption and propaganda purposes, and one for their own planning. I doubt seriously that CAL football was in the black. Are the out of state tutions that are usbsidized charged against the books? Are the facility uses charged? etc.

16. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 01:56 pm

rbenford: As I mentioned, at my current instution football runs in the red and the data from that same source bear that out. My institution's football program also draws much less media attention and smaller crowds than Cal does, so the difference in revenue is to be expected, but note that this isn't hidden in the numbers.

Believe it or not, I've actually had a very similar but opposite debate recently in a comments thread in a newspaper's (online) sports section, arguing against some folks who tried to claim that athletic departments as a whole are bringing in oceans of revenue. Outside of Texas and a few other schools that's not the case for most athletic departments, as you noted.

The issue is this: If you don't like football or if you don't like athletics in general, fine. But don't twist the numbers or dream up conspiracy theories to try to support a personal distaste or a Manichean view of athletics versus the rest of the university. There are enough real issues to be dealt with in twenty-first-century American college athletics without dwelling on the illusory ones.

17. pgrudin - September 29, 2010 at 02:57 pm


Where is it written that universities have to have sports programs at all? Whom do these programs serve? The NBA? The NFL? The recruits who, frequently, are recruited only to be over their heads academically? I have seen this academic disaster play out at elite small colleges, with perfectly bright nice students losing whatever confidence they brought with them by being as outmatched in the classroom as their non-athletic peers would be on the field. At universities, especially the variety that are merely facades for their sports programs, athletes graduate or go pro, sometimes, without being able to read or write. I shudder to think about it.

Swarthmore, I believe, has gotten rid of football. I don't think the college has suffered.

I love to watch football, basketball, and baseball, and I played a little in high school. I do not love these sports enough, however, to enjoy them at the expense of most participants and at the expense of the universities and colleges they attend.

Ecrasez l'infame!

18. mehitabel - September 29, 2010 at 03:53 pm

Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught.

Ambrose Bierce
Devil's Dictionary

19. robkov - September 29, 2010 at 04:13 pm

WashingtonWarrior, you are not too informed on college athletics. Football is nod of the few sports that turns a profit. Why would a money making sport be cut for budget reasons? The answer is it wouldn't.
Do you have anything useful to offer?

20. labjack - September 29, 2010 at 04:29 pm

Those are some wild numbers. the budget is 12 million today, and when baseball, rugby, men's gymnastics and womens gymnastics the budget drops to 5 million.
7 million for 4 teams. With only 5 million, are there only 3 teams left at Berkely?

On a side note, how many non-athlete students could take part in intramural sports for 7 million. Wouldn't the student body be better served?

21. washingtonwarrior - September 29, 2010 at 04:39 pm

I absolutely love college athletics, including football. In fact, I'm a football season ticket holder at a Division I university. With that said, I believe all institutions should adopt the Ivy League model of no athletic scholarships. This will even the playing field and encourage athletes to become student-athletes.

22. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 06:08 pm

Washingtonwarrior: I agree 100%.

23. lslerner - September 29, 2010 at 06:52 pm

It's about time. Now they should go the whole way and eliminate all subsidy of sports. If students want to exercise, there are plenty of extra-university facilities open to them.

24. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 08:57 pm

lslerner: But athletics is much more than exercise. It's an evolving system of thought and practice that happens to centrally involve the human body, much like dance but with different aims and practices. I think it does a real disservice to athletics to reduce it simply to exercise, and this is just one example of a (in my opinion) small-minded dismissal of the endeavor in these pages. Obviously atheltics is over-prioritized in many institutions, but that doesn't make it completely unworthwhile -- far from it.

25. cmsmw - September 29, 2010 at 10:45 pm

usc158: I can't say that isn't a valid argument. However, my hope would be that going to a Division III model univerally would give incentive to create a separate developmental league for the NFL and NBA for athletes who have absolutely no interest in a college education. Hockey and baseball have that pair of options, along with fewer scholarships to go around (many baseball players are on only partial scholarship or none at all) while maintaining a high standard of play, which indicates that it could work

26. laundrydishes - September 30, 2010 at 08:51 am

Another reason major public universities won't cut highly popular sports such as football: For many throughout the state, the football (or men's basketball, etc.) program is coextensive with the university itself. Cut football? The institution ceases to exist in the minds of many -- and perhaps too many, worry university execs.

Just a hunch.

27. cmsmw - September 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

laundrydishes: Seems spot on to me.

28. jwr12 - September 30, 2010 at 08:21 pm

CMSMW: In your comment, you claim that Cal is making money, except of course for the stadium part. Although you are no doubt aware of this, there are some who may not know that the stadium part is actually at the center of the whole funding controversy at Cal. Why? Because in addition to running a general deficit--and like some others here I have seen various assessments of whether the football team itself is a money maker -- the Athletic Department has asked the university to provide the credit backing for the renovation of the stadium as well as for the construction of a high performance athletics training facility only to be used by designated student athletes (some 450 of the school's population).

In theory, the financing scheme should be revenue-neutral for Cal; yet in practice, since the Athletics program is already running a $13 million deficit (to be cut to 5 under this new plan) yearly, financing costs will come out of the school's budget.

How does this affect your argument about football? Well, football is played in Cal stadium. And this is an example of how football has such a large economic footprint (in terms of costs that need to be paid just to be in the game, things that are not on any one spreadsheet) that we should be cautious of how quickly we believe it makes money. I am reminded of all those experimental science programs that make money on federal grants, and bully the humanists about it, until one remembers that the indirect costs they get covered by those grants are only a fraction of the material and staffing costs it takes to fulfill them. Football makes schools gear up in expensive ways, and (again) I think the question of its money making nature needs very careful evaluation. At many schools the costs of football are clearly wagging the dog of education -- and, like you and WW, I am a football fan (although, to be honest, I prefer to watch either real professionals or pee-wee programs).

29. frontierhistorian - October 02, 2010 at 10:40 am

Many years ago I interviewed the author of College Sports Inc, Murray Sperber. An avid college sports fan, he undertook a study of primarily Big 10 schools. His research revealed that even the schools that supposedly run in the black with their college programs are nevertheless subsidized in other ways. For example, facilities maintenance could be covered in the general university budget rather than the athletic budget.

So while I appreciate cmsmw's nuanced discussion and concrete figures, I wouldn't be convinced that Cal's football program was running in the black unless I could see that all actual costs of the program were included in the published figuers.

And before someone plays the card regarding donors supporting their schools because of football and other sports, Sperber's reserach revealed that alumni tend to give less to their alma maters when they become major athletic powerhouses because they're not interested in contributing to what they consider to be a jock factory. (I, myself, have stopped contributing to my alma mater, a small liberal arts college, once they adopted football several years ago, although I largely did this because of the process by which the program was adopted.)

30. spockkk - October 08, 2010 at 07:36 pm

Previous posts have noted important facts about this situation: FB's revenue exceeds its expense at a few universities, UCB included, if we can take the stats as they have been presented. This decision is Berkeley's alone--their rationale can't be applied to other schools, even those in the PAC 10.

It should be noted that most NCAA Division I institutions follow the proportionality criterion of Title IX. Eliminating men's and women's gymnastics is a wash. Women's lacrosse and men's rugby may also cancel each other, depending on how many women UCB carries in field hockey. My point is that FB has no equal on the women's side in terms of numbers. Dropping FB would probably result in a sudden imbalance of men student-athletes.

I'm guessing that all sports that were cut had gate revenue and maybe even some sponsorship revenue; but not anywhere near supporting their respective programs. From a business perspective, UCB dropped five sports that cost the university money to run. I am sure much thought went into which sports got the ax. T/F and XC are no-brainers; they have big teams, cost much less than many sports, and award less money per athlete. The same goes for swimming, diving, and water polo.

My only question is whether UCB now has the most expensive intramural baseball "park" in the country.

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