In subsequent months, supporters of those sports, including current students, alumni and students’ parents, had mounted a vocal, organized and growing 36 Sports Strong push — Stanford has 36 varsity sports — formed to raise millions of dollars to save their programs and pressure the university to let the sports stay. Among those alumni supporters were the baseball Hall of Famer Mike Mussina; Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who played football; the golfer Michelle Wie West; and the Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug.
In an effort to self-fund its program before the planned cuts were ditched, the men’s volleyball program alone had garnered more than $7.7 million in pledges, Jacobs said. Raising that much money in such a short time showed Stanford that there was a lot more potential for alumni support than the university thought there was, he said, especially among those not considered to be major-donor material.
“We flipped their fund-raising model and were getting tons of donations of pledges under $25,000,” Jacobs said, adding that the university will now work with each team to help organize and focus its fund-raising initiatives.
Even more pressure for Stanford to reverse its decision arose last week when a pair of lawsuits were filed in federal court, alleging that the university defrauded recruits by not telling them their sports might be dropped and also saying that Stanford would be violating Title IX edicts if the sports were not reinstated.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the lawsuit from recruits said they planned to drop the case because of Stanford’s latest decision. Rebecca Peterson-Fisher, an attorney in the Title IX case, said she wanted to see more specifics about the university’s plans. “We don’t have detailed information yet about the terms of the reinstatement, and we do want to ensure that Stanford complies with Title IX going forward,” Peterson-Fisher of The Liu Law Firm said.
Last summer, this abrupt change by Stanford seemed implausible, particularly when the university repeatedly told the cut teams that the decision was final and that there would be no way the programs could fight for their own existence. Many athletes said they doubted the university’s reasoning for the cuts being a financial one. Stanford had a $28.9 billion endowment as of August, but officials said that money was earmarked for other things. It projected a $70 million deficit over the next three years if the 11 teams were not dumped.
Eliminating men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s fencing, women’s lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, field hockey, squash, synchronized swimming, wrestling and coed and women’s sailing would save the athletic department $8 million, the college had said. Those sports have won a combined 20 national championships and produced 27 Olympic medalists.