Another bump on the Cal athletics road

Last fall, Berkeley announced that it would cut five teams to reduce the annual subsidy the campus gives to intercollegiate athletics from around $11 14m [corr. 12/II] to $5m.  Most places with six-figure administrators do some analysis before making multi-million dollar decisions, especially analysis of the relevant laws, but it appears that didn’t happen here: the IA folks are surprised (though the AD denies this) that cutting women’s teams has Title IX consequences – or maybe they just chose not to share that tidbit with the public and the fans at the time. The problem is that the M/F sex ratio of the student body is way below the ratio of scholarship athletes, and cutting any women’s sports brings the campus under the equal-ratio rule where it had been governed by a different, less stringent, standard before.

Backpedaling all winter has been vigorous, mainly in the form of shaking the booster tree for gifts. Originally the administration set the bar for restoring the teams to varsity status at $80m, then $25.  Now it’s decided that about $12m is enough to keep rugby, women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse in business, but baseball and men’s gymnastics are gone.  The income from $12m is only about $500,000 a year, and the original team cut was supposed to be a big part of moving a $14m annual loss to $5m, so it appears that the Title IX need to keep the two women’s teams mostly derailed the hope to save any serious money.  For example, men in 2008 not counting basketball and football lost about $7m, and baseball and gymnastics engaged about a third of them, so the savings from  the revised cut is only about $2m.  Next year football will be in a baseball park that only seats about 45,000 people, and this year the money teams are both having the kind of season that doesn’t tend to make it rain money or sell seats (football  3-6 , men’s basketball 5-6 so far in the PAC10), so redirecting a meaningful amount of athletics subsidies back to the educational mission is looking further and further away, and the management of the Intercollegiate Athletics enterprise continues to mystify.

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