In July 2010, a panel of professors and alumni criticized the administration of the University of California, Berkley (“Berkley”) for substantial spending on athletics programs. Currently, the Berkley athletics department has expenses of $69 million, yet revenues total only $57 million. The $12 million shortfall is bridged by student registration fees and the chancellor’s discretionary fund. Last summer, Berkeley announced it will provide no more than $5 million per year of support for the athletics department beginning in 2014.
As a result of budgetary restraints and other facts, Berkeley announced it will eliminate baseball (national championships in 1947 and 1957), men’s and women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse and men’s rugby (25 national championships since 1980) will be demoted to a newly created varsity club which will allow the team to continue to compete on campus but the team must become self-sustaining. Such action will take effect during 2011-2012 academic year. Of course, the loss of sports is a difficult and drastic decision, but reports indicate the athletics department will save $4 million and will keep Berkeley in compliance with Title IX legislation. Additionally, Berkeley noted it will honor the scholarships of the 163 student-athletes affected or help them transfer to other institutions for athletics purposes.
In coming to the conclusion to eliminate or demote the above-referenced teams, Berkeley used a variety of factors including 1) cost, 2) student diversity, 3) impact on donations, and 4) compliance with Title IX. These factors appear to be similar to the factors used by the University of Illinois in Kelley v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, which involved the demotion of the men’s swimming program and ultimately held the “remedial scheme…at issue directly protects the interests of the disproportionately burdened gender [female].” In matters of this kind, reactionary litigation generally follows, thus this matter is likely not closed for the Berkeley administration.