What Sports Might Be Cut At UC Berkeley?

For a number of months now, we’ve been hearing whispers that UC Berkeley, the school that sponsors more varsity teams than any other in the Pac-10 with the exception of Stanford, would be looking to make some cuts thanks to the state’s budget crisis. The rub here is that with the current balance in the athletic department at this point, the most logical candidate for elimination would be men’s gymnastics.

That has plenty of people in the sport worried, as there are only 16 programs left nationwide as it is, with Stanford the only other sponsor of the sport in DI left on the West coast. Earlier today, California Golden Blogs went after the issue in more detail and came to a curious conclusion:

Only Cal and furd [sic: Stanford] compete in men’s gymnastics on the west coast, and it’s not clear if men’s gymnastics will remain viable as an NCAA division 1 sport with less than 20 programs remaining.

Besides gymnastics, the sports I would consider most at risk are track, cross country, tennis, and soccer. Those sports have both men’s and women’s teams, so that would allow for even cuts.

Even cuts? I can’t recall ever seeing even cuts in an athletic department in the proportionality era (post 1996). So let’s be clear: if UC-Berkeley tried to make its cuts evenly, there’s a 100% chance that the female teams cut would file a law suit and be reinstated. As always, we ought to look at the numbers to see why that’s the case.

According to the most current EADA data, the total enrollment at the school is 24,385 with 11,409 men and 12,976 women. That’s roughly 53% female and 47% male. However, the athletic department counts 563 men and only 385 women. That means the gender balance in the athletic department is roughly 59% male and 41% female. Though these numbers are for the 2008-09 academic year, they should be roughly in the same range now as no programs were either added or subtracted before the most recently completed academic year.

Thus far, this balance wouldn’t be a problem for the school, as they have a solid history of adding women’s teams, something that California Golden Blogs itself noted. However, there isn’t an athletic director in the entire nation that doesn’t know that cuts to women’s athletics of equal or greater numbers to men in a situation like this one would trigger a law suit.

Of course, there is one caveat. UC Berkeley could very well follow the same path James Madison University did a few years ago, and radically restructure its athletic department in such a way that it is more in line with the current gender balance in the student body, but also the way it’s sure to look in the future, where the trends all point to campuses that could very well be dominated by women.

I doubt that UC Berkeley would follow the latter course, but I don’t doubt that when the faculty committee considering the question convenes in short order they won’t at least discuss the possibility.

In any case, the situation bears watching very closely. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for our friends in the men’s gymnastics program.

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