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Stanford Backtracks On Decision To Cut 11 Varsity Sports Programs Following Outcry, Lawsuits

STANFORD (CBS SF) -- Stanford University announced Tuesday it will no longer drop 11 varsity sports programs it stunningly announced last July, following a community outcry and two lawsuits by affected student-athletes.

Stanford cited financial concerns exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a $12 million budget shortfall, in the original decision to drop the programs. It would have meant the discontinuation of men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, and men's volleyball and wrestling, which won National Championships in 1997 and 2010 and has been ranked in the top 15 for 12 out of the past 13 seasons.

On Tuesday, Stanford said the reversal on dropping the programs was "bolstered by an improved financial picture with increased fundraising potential," as well as newly galvanized philanthropic interest to support the 11 sports.

"We have new optimism based on new circumstances, including vigorous and broad-based philanthropic interest in Stanford Athletics on the part of our alumni, which have convinced us that raising the increased funds necessary to support all 36 of our varsity teams is an approach that can succeed," said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in a prepared statement.

Stanford officials had been in talks with groups of alumni, including the 36 Sports Strong group which was leading the effort to reverse last year's decision and seeking to raise private funds to support Stanford's teams.

In April, hundreds of student-athletes staged a protest outside University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne's office in an effort to convince the university to reverse its decision.

"It just becomes so much more real when you have a crowd of people who are supporting this effort out in front of the administration, saying 'This is our livelihood, these are our dreams. Please don't cut them. Please listen to us,'" said Claire Smythe at the time, a senior on Stanford's women's lightweight rowing team.

Stanford Athletics Rally
Supporters of recently cut Stanford athletic programs gather outside the university president's office on April 26, 2021. (CBS)

Many students questioned whether the cuts were truly necessary given the size of the university's endowment.

Last week, two groups of athletes from the 11 sports slated to be dropped filed separate lawsuits against Stanford. The status of those lawsuits was unclear following word of the reinstatement.

In a statement, Stanford officials said, "our discussions with 36 Sports Strong and other constituencies were already far along, and we reached the conclusion we are announcing today independent of their filing. We were disappointed by these suits since it was well known that we were engaged in these discussions, and we are pleased to be embarking on a more positive path."






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