After a months-long fight, California's baseball program has been reinstated.
The school announced today that, after a significant increase in philanthropic pledges in the last few days, commitments totaling $9 million were presented to chancellor Robert Birgeneau on Thursday by San Francisco attorney Stu Gordon, a former Cal pitcher and leader of the fundraising effort. The fundraising efforts remain about 10 percent short of the previously identified $10 million goal, but donors and the campus administration have agreed that the team's formal reinstatement will be announced once the $10 million target is reached through continued fundraising.
"The baseball team's preservation is yet another example of how our alumni are stepping up to support their alma mater during a time of unprecedented financial challenges," Birgeneau said in a statement. "I am grateful, on behalf of the campus community, for what our alumni and supporters have accomplished, and pleased that Cal baseball will continue to represent the university in intercollegiate competition. Most especially, I want to thank Stu Gordon for his inspired leadership of this fundraising effort. It would not have happened without him. I have faith in the community's ability not only to meet, but to exceed, the $10 million target in the near future."
School officials are working with team supporters to develop a strategic plan to raise significant additional annual resources, beginning with the 2011-12 season. The strategic plan will focus on improved game-day revenues, as well as additional annual gift and special event revenue. The plan also calls for a substantial increase in the sport's permanent endowment, seeded by some of the gifts already raised.
Last September, Cal officials announced that, due to pressure on the school's budget as a result of dwindling state support for higher education, four sports—baseball, men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse—would be eliminated, and rugby would be reassigned to a newly created sports tier at the end of the 2010-11 academic year. In February, the campus reported that separate fundraising efforts had ensured the continued intercollegiate status of rugby, women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse.
But the fundraising efforts have succeeded in reinstating all of those sports but men's gymnastics (which is still working to raise funds), while still allowing Cal athletics to remain on its path to financial sustainability and honor the campus's decision to cap institutional support for athletics at $5 million per year by 2014.
“This is truly an exciting day for Cal baseball,” Cal baseball coach David Esquer said in the release. “I’m especially happy for our players who have endured a difficult six months of uncertainty. They have shown an absolute resolve to focus on their season and have demonstrated a tremendous amount of character throughout this process.
“Our supporters stuck with us and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The passion and loyalty that define Cal certainly came through in this process. While we recognize the dedicated members of the committee who led the effort, we also owe a debt of thanks to every single donor who made this possible. Their contributions will ensure the continuation of a great tradition.”
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