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Stanford Reverses Plans to Cut 11 Athletic Programs

May 19, 2021

Stanford University reversed its decision to cut 11 athletic programs by the end of the current academic year and announced in a letter yesterday that all the teams will be continued due to an improved financial outlook and “new, vigorous and broad-based philanthropic interest” in athletics.

In the letter, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Director of Athletics Bernard Muir gave credit to 36 Sports Strong, a group of Stanford Athletics alumni who rallied the support of students, alumni and others and raised millions of dollars in pledges to save the 11 sports teams. The officials said the financial challenges in athletics are “still very real” and retaining the teams “will require a large-scale fundraising campaign.”

Two lawsuits were also filed against the university on behalf of athletes last week, one claiming that Stanford breached contracts with and misled athletic recruits while planning to cut the teams. The other alleged the planned cuts violated Title IX, the federal law that requires equal sports opportunities for men and women at federally funded institutions, The Washington Post reported. The university's letter said Tuesday’s decision was unrelated to the lawsuits.

“Our interactions have included highly constructive discussions with the 36 Sports Strong group, which has helped further galvanize this interest among alumni,” the letter said. “These activities coincided with improvement in the financial investment markets over the last 10 months.”

Leaders of 36 Sports Strong said in a statement posted to their website that Stanford administrators “deserve a lot of credit.”

“President Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Athletic Director Bernard Muir listened and worked with us to find a better way forward for Stanford Athletics,” the statement said. “We are grateful for their engagement, and we are looking forward to getting to work with them.”

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