Stanford reverses 2020 decision to cut 11 sports

·3-min read

Stanford will not be cutting 11 sports from its athletic department after all.

The school announced Tuesday that it would keep 11 programs that it had previously said it would cut because of "an improved financial picture with increased fundraising potential." The reversal also comes after public backlash to the decision that dropped sports like sailing, wrestling and men's volleyball.

Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said the school will need to fundraise for the sports to continue in the future.

"I am thrilled that we have found a way to continue sponsoring these varsity sports, which are an important part of the fabric of this university," said Muir. "I believe the future is extremely bright for Stanford Athletics and am eager to begin the important work of galvanizing our community and cementing Stanford's position of leadership and excellence in intercollegiate sports."

Stanford is one of just two schools in the United States that sponsors at least 36 sports programs (Ohio State leads the country at 37). The school said that discussions with alumni — including a group called 36 Sports Strong — were a catalyst for the efforts to keep the sports after all. 

"I also want to acknowledge the 36 Sports Strong group, as well numerous other alumni and supporters, for their thoughtful outreach, philanthropic support and constructive partnership in envisaging a path forward," Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne said.

Two lawsuits were even filed a week ago in an attempt to keep the school from cutting the sports programs. Stanford said in its statement that it had changed course before the lawsuits were filed. The sports that are no longer on the chopping block are men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men's rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball and wrestling.

One of the lawsuits was filed on behalf of eight athletes at the school. 

Decision announced in July

Stanford announced last July that it would be cutting the 11 sports because “fiscal stability” within the athletic department was necessary. The announcement came during the COVID-19 pandemic and after NCAA spring sports had been canceled for the season. The Pac-12 had not yet made a decision regarding the 2020 football season — a season that ultimately started two months late.

The school said in its statement announcing the cuts that the financial issues existed before the pandemic hit the United States in the spring, though the pandemic had exacerbated those issues.

Stanford was the first Power Five program to announce that it was cutting sports and it's not the first to announce that it's reinstating sports that it said that it would cut. Iowa announced in 2020 that it would be cutting four sports including swimming and diving. In February, Iowa said that that it would bring back its women's swimming and diving teams but not men's swimming and diving, men's tennis, or men's gymnastics.

Clemson has also announced that it won't be cutting its men's track and field and cross country teams and will also be adding a women's sport. 

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