Across the nation, over 80 Division I programs have been cut in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even more Division II and III programs have also been cut since last March.
Last July, Stanford announced that it was cutting 11 of its varsity sports programs at the conclusion of their respective seasons, citing finances and competitive excellence as their reasoning. These cuts will eliminate one-third of Stanford’s student athletes, and will save the school $4.5 million yearly — less than 4% of Stanford’s athletic department budget. Among these cuts was the varsity wrestling team.
Stanford’s wrestling team finished a historic season this year. Seven of the 10 starters qualified for the NCAA tournament, and Stanford finished with two All-American selections and a national champion, redshirt sophomore Shane Griffith. As a team, Stanford Wrestling won the PAC-12 championship, as well.
A movement called Keep Stanford Wrestling has raised over $12.5 million to keep the program running, which is enough to fund it entirely for the foreseeable future. They’ve petitioned the school to keep the program and allow it to self-fund, but the school has refused to consider their argument.
With a massively successful and highly-supported season in the books, Stanford’s justifications of finances and competitive excellence are completely invalid and flimsy.
So why is Stanford not allowing the program to continue? Nobody knows. Despite their statement that they’d “investigated a wide variety of alternatives,” which included philanthropic support, Stanford has continued to deny pleas to keep this self-sustaining, nationally competitive program.
The most important impact of the discontinuation of Stanford wrestling concerns the wrestlers themselves. They, and the athletes from the 10 other teams being cut, now have to decide whether to stay at Stanford and not play the sport they love and committed their life to, or transfer to a new school to continue competing.
I might be biased, but having been an athlete for my entire life and currently attending an academically rigorous instruction, that feels wrong. Cutting sports programs because they aren’t bringing in enough revenue or trophies and medals just doesn’t sit well with me. Athletes come from all over the world to compete in the NCAA in their respective sports. A student athlete’s college discontinuing their sport is akin to the college telling that student they aren’t good enough for the school.
If Stanford is willing to sacrifice one-third of its student athletes to save a measly 4% off its bottom line, what other sacrifices will Stanford and universities like it make to save money? Greed on the part of universities will only continue to make student life worse, and the example of Stanford’s wrestling team is only a piece of the continued trend of budget and program cuts intended to make more money for schools at any human cost.