Stanford slashes sailing program

Published on July 8th, 2020

Stanford University, which has long boasted one of the most robust collections of varsity sports in the country, will cut 11 of its varsity programs at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year as it deals with the ongoing financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

Located in Northern California, the 11 sports that will be discontinued are men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling.

The Stanford Sailing Team had four students earning 2019-2020 College All American awards, including the rare coup of team members Jack Parkin ’21 and Michelle Lahrkamp ’23 claiming the highest individual honors of College Sailor of the Year and Women’s Sailor of the Year, respectively.

While completing the fall schedule, the 2019-2020 Sailing season was cancelled on March 13 before the spring events began. The Stanford Sailing Team, which flies extensively to the east coast for regattas, was in the spotlight last year when its sailing coach was convicted in the nationwide college bribery scandal.

In an open letter to the Stanford community, administers said that continuing to fund 36 athletic programs was “not sustainable” and that alternatives such as budget reductions and fundraising were “insufficient to meet the magnitude of the financial challenge before us.”

“This is heartbreaking news to share,” the administrators wrote in the letter. “These 11 programs consist of more than 240 incredible student-athletes and 22 dedicated coaches. They were built by more than 4,000 alumni whose contributions led to 20 national championships, 27 Olympic medals, and an untold number of academic and professional achievements….”

According to ESPN, Stanford will honor all of its scholarship commitments and assist any athletes who wish to continue their careers elsewhere. Coaches’ contracts will also be honored.

The letter cited an already dire situation before the coronavirus spread throughout the United States. The school projected the deficit to exceed $12 million in the fiscal year, which would “grow steadily.” Then came the pandemic, which it said exacerbated the issue. Before the cuts to the 11 programs, the school estimated a best-case scenario of a $25 million deficit in the fiscal year and a cumulative shortfall of $70 million over the next three years.

The letter gave several criteria for how the school chose which programs to cut, including fan interest, potential savings and the impact on Title IX compliance, as well as each sports’ history at Stanford and their prospects for future success. For a list of FAQs from the school, click here.

Background: The ICSA is the governing authority for sailing competition at colleges and universities throughout the United States and in some parts of Canada. There are seven Conferences that schedule and administer regattas within their established geographic regions, with ICSA hosting two national championships in the fall (singlehanded, match racing) and three national championships in the spring (team, women’s, coed).

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