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#KeepStanfordWrestling: What's the real reason Stanford eliminated 11 sports?

by Robert Hatta '97, Patricia Miranda '01, Shawn Harmon '01

Photo of Stanford's Haydn Maley by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors

This is the question we ultimately asked Provost Persis Drell that she would not answer.

In addition to the Provost, Patrick Dunkley, Deputy Athletic Director, joined us on the February 9th Zoom meeting. From our side, we had:

• KSW co-chairs, Patricia Miranda '01 and Robert Hatta '97

36 Sports Strong co-chair, Kathy Levinson '77 

• Ohio State University President, Dr. Kristina Johnson BS '79, MSEE, PhD '83 

To guide our conversation, we used the presentation found here. Through it, we made the ask that the 11 sports be reinstated and allowed to self-endow. We laid out both publicly available and AD-provided budget data that show the cuts made a minimal impact on the overall deficits, which will not only remain but grow even after COVID and the elimination of 1/3 of Stanford's student athletes. We showed that wrestling's ability to raise over $12 million over such a short period of time proves that sports can individually endow themselves. We closed with impassioned personal testimonies supporting the diversity of opportunities and excellence that come with a broad-based sports offering (see notes on the very last slide to see our closing statement to Provost Drell).

In the end, the Provost was unmoved. She stated that her long-term priority is to ensure Stanford's ability to transform lives for more than just student athletes. In the near term, her priority is to provide a 2020-21 season to the 11 eliminated sports and then to support "as many of the remaining sports as possible". She acknowledged our economic data, but vaguely assured us that the financial issues of the department run deeper than these figures show.

Finally, when pressed that our financial solution is a win for all parties and that a resistance to reconsideration in any form could only mean that finances were not the true reason for the cuts, we asked the question: what, then, was the true reason for the cuts? Provost Drell's response: I cannot give you the answers you want.

The primary arguments defending these cuts, in the face of mounting data that they don't meaningfully solve budget deficits, disenfranchise a third of current and would-be student athletes, and anger generations of alumni, amount to "because we said so." We've now heard this from Athletic Director Bernard Muir, several members of the Board of Trustees (including its athletics subcommittee and outgoing Chairman Jeff Raikes), and Provost Persis Drell. This is not transparency. This is not innovative, creative thinking. This is not the Stanford we know.

And yet, it appears that this is the Stanford of today. Time is running out, and direct, logical and good faith dialogue continues to be met by closed minds and an unwillingness to even consider an alternate solution.

Please share this summary with all who might join and support our call to know the real reasons why Stanford eliminated 11 sports. Ask why Ohio State University, facing the same economic challenges of any other university, is supporting all of its 36 varsity sports. Ask why Dartmouth, Brown, and William and Mary Universities have reinstated their cut programs. How many articles like this one published on February 12th by Sports Illustrated have to be written before Stanford tells us the truth. Bring forward every resource, contact and connection you have, demanding to know why.

We've been told to heal, to move on, and to find closure in the wake of these cuts. One cannot find closure unless they understand the reasons behind the events that broke his or her heart.

Until then, we keep fighting.

Keep Stanford Wrestling

Robert Hatta '97

Patricia Miranda '01

Shawn Harmon '01
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