The cuts in the Cal intercollegiate sports program can be traced to two factors: 1) The increasing costs in football; and 2) The effects of Title IX.
And, to make my position clear, I love college football and I’ve supported Title IX since its inception, at a time when that position was very unpopular with my male colleagues.
The model for years was that a successful football program could pay for the other sports, but that’s no longer true.
Football costs have risen dramatically. One example: When Oregon alumnus Phil Knight contributed $40 million to build a state-of-the-art training facility, it raised the bar for other schools.
We’ve seen this notably at Cal, whose football facilities were the worst in the conference. The training center that Jeff Tedford wanted — and needed, for recruiting purposes — will be in place this spring.
The NCAA cannot control alumni, and it shouldn’t. Cal has benefited greatly from the generosity of its alums, particularly the Haas family, which has its name both on the basketball arena and the business school.
Meanwhile, at Cal, there’s been an enormous rebuilding program for Memorial Stadium, which had become increasingly dangerous because of its location on an earthquake fault, as well as being terribly outdated because it was built in 1923.
Alumni have been tapped for donations for the building of the stadium, which diverts some of the money that would otherwise go to individual sports.
Football costs have also gone up because coaches are getting much more money. It’s like the arms race: If you don’t pay a comparable amount, you can’t get the coach you want. Even Stanford, which has paid well below market prices for coaches, was apparently willing to go to $3 million a year for Jim Harbaugh.
There is no way of making up the money that is no longer coming from football. At Cal, men’s basketball makes a little money. No other sport does, including all the women’s sports.
Cutting women’s sports without comparable cuts in men’s sports is not possible under Title IX, nor should it be. If playing sports is beneficial, those sports should be available to women as well as men.
I still believe strongly in women’s sports. When I’m on campus at Berkeley, as I was just three days ago, I see young female athletes who are much more confident and self-assured than the female students of my era. That scares some men, but that’s their problem.
The Cal solution will be announced soon, but there are two possibilities that I see:
1) Endowed scholarships. Dave Maggard started this when he was athletic director, and it should be the pattern for all nonrevenue sports, tapping the alumni who played those sports.
2) Reduced travel. I don’t think it should be automatic that every team has to be sent across country to national championships.
3) Monitoring the costs of the football program more closely.
Cal has had a broad-based program; only Stanford has more sports. It won’t be able to save all of them, but I’d like to see a broad-based program continuing.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.