The University of California at Berkeley announced Monday that its men’s gymnastics program, which had been slated for elimination after this academic year, will continue now that the program has raised $2.5-million in pledges.
As I describe in a story published on Sunday, the Golden Bears’ plight had galvanized the men’s gymnastics community. Over the past several decades, the number of NCAA men’s gymnastics programs has dwindled to 17, and many coaches were concerned that losing Cal, a storied program with a 99-year history, might endanger the remaining teams. Alumni and other supporters rallied, and a vigorous fund-raising campaign netted the $2.5-million in pledges (including donations from three-quarters of all head men’s gymnastics coaches).
The program’s fate had been uncertain since September, when officials said they would need to eliminate baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, and rugby to trim Cal’s athletic subsidy by more than $7-million. By early April, all teams but men’s gymnastics had been reinstated after supporters of those programs raised a combined $18-million in pledges to cover operating costs for the next several years. (Women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, and rugby got a reprieve in February; baseball’s break came in early April.)
Cal officials said Monday that the team’s pledges, though shy of the $4-million officials originally asked for, would be enough to allow the team to continue in a pared-down fashion: Scholarships will be limited to returning athletes until more money is raised, and the program will have to find ways to reduce its operating expenses.
For Cal’s youthful interim coach, Tim McNeill, who guided the team to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA championships last month, the news came not a moment too soon: The final recruiting cycle for new additions to next year’s squad begins later this week.