It looks like the Pacific-10 Conference will not be an 11-team baseball league after all. California shocked college baseball Tuesday by announcing it will drop five varsity sports, including baseball—after the 2011 season. ESPN and Baseball America columnist Jerry Crasnick first reported the news on Twitter.
"We've been hearing some rumors, but I just can't believe it," said former Cal outfielder Brett Jackson, who was playing a game in Cary, N.C., for Team USA when the news broke. "It was an absolute shock—it's a real shame. There've been some rumors, but you never think they would do that at Cal. I grew up a Cal fan, I'm a Bay Area guy, I just can't imagine there being no baseball at Cal."
That was the reaction around college baseball and the Pac-10, including at Bay Area rival Stanford.
"They've had a very rich college baseball tradition, been to the College World Series a couple of times and won a national title," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said in a statement. "It's a sad day for college baseball.
"It has an effect on all of the Pac-10. You are talking about a program that started playing baseball in the late 1890s. That's over 100 years of tradition. Obviously it affects Stanford, because it's our traditional rival, and obviously we are big rivals, but we have a lot of good friends there. Some great players have gone through that baseball program."
Cal's impressive alumni list includes Jackson, Jeff Kent, Brandon Morrow, Xavier Nady, Tyson Ross and Geoff Blum, among recent or current big leaguers.
USA Today reported that Cal's announcement comes amid an economic crunch that has led to drastic reductions in state higher-education funding in California—while the school's financial support of its 29-team athletics program has steadily increased, from $7.4 million in 2007-08 to $12.1 million in 2009-10.
"This is not sustainable for our campus," chancellor Robert Birgenau wrote in a letter to the Cal community, as reported by USA Today. "The situation has raised heated debate about the size and cost of our Intercollegiate Athletics program among many of our campus constituencies."
In addition to baseball, Cal will cut men's and women's gymnastics and women's lacrosse. Men's rugby will become what Cal is calling a "varsity club" sport. The cuts are scheduled to save $4 million in 2011-12, according to the university.
The baseball program has made 10 trips to regionals, including two of the last three years. The Golden Bears went to the Norman Regional in 2010.
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