Cal's baseball program gets funding to continue

April 8, 2011 10:57:29 PM PDT
A fundraising effort has saved the baseball program at the University of California at Berkeley, which had been targeted for elimination, campus officials said today.

The university said that after a significant increase in philanthropic pledges in the last few days, commitments totaling $9 million were presented to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau on Thursday by Stu Gordon, a former Cal pitcher who helped lead the fundraising effort.

However, the $9 million that has been raised is still about 10 percent short of the previously identified goal of raising $10 million to save the baseball team.

The university said donors and the campus administration have agreed that the team's formal reinstatement won't be announced until the $10 million target is met through continued fundraising.

Birgeneau announced last Sept. 28 that the university would eliminate five sports, including baseball, to reduce its subsidies to its athletics program.

He said the university has been spending more than $12 million a year in subsidies to sports teams and he wants to reduce the subsidy to $5 million annually by 2014.

On Feb. 11, UC Berkeley officials said enough money had been raised to save women's lacrosse and gymnastics and men's rugby.

But they said not enough money had been raised to save baseball and men's gymnastics.

Birgeneau said in a prepared statement today, "The baseball team's preservation is yet another example of how our alumni are stepping up to support their alma mater during a time of unprecedented financial challenges."

He said, "I am grateful, on behalf of the campus community, for what our alumni and supporters have accomplished, and pleased that Cal baseball will continue to represent the university in intercollegiate competition.

Head baseball coach David Esquer said, "This is truly an exciting day for Cal baseball. I'm especially happy for our players who have endured a difficult six months of uncertainty."

Esquer said, "They have shown an absolute resolve to focus on their season and have demonstrated a tremendous amount of character throughout this process."

Cal's baseball team is currently ranked 13th in the nation and begins a three-game road trip today at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

UC Berkeley officials said supporters of the men's gymnastics team are still trying to save that support with their own fundraising campaign.

They said philanthropic pledges thus far are about half of the $4 million needed to pay for the team net expenses over the next 7 to 10 years.

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