By Jeremy Rubin
Stanford’s Board of Trustees is scheduling a special board meeting to discuss a petition to reinstate the 11 discontinued varsity programs, representatives from 36 Sports Strong — a group of alumni working to bring back the programs — told The Daily on Wednesday.
The Board of Trustees’ meeting will follow a meeting next Tuesday between 36 Sports Strong, University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and members of the Board of Trustees: the first time 36 Sports Strong has spoken with Tessier-Lavigne, although the group met with part of the Board last December and with Provost Persis Drell in February.
The news, first reported by Ann Killion for the San Francisco Chronicle, comes amid heightened criticism of Stanford Athletics as members of the discontinued sports achieve national success while publicly denouncing the University, most notably national champion wrestler Shane Griffiths.
“We are encouraged that President Tessier-Lavigne has asked for this meeting and are looking forward to having a detailed conversation about reinstating our sports,” wrote Jeremy Jacobs ’06, a 36 Sports Strong representative and men’s volleyball alum, in an email to The Daily. “Doing so would send an incredible message to alumni, boosting enthusiasm and generating momentum Stanford needs to come out of the pandemic on strong footing.”
According to documents provided to The Daily, Tessier-Lavigne requested that “the Athletics Committee and full board consider the petition and provide advice to management.”
“President Tessier-Lavigne looks forward to meeting with the leaders behind the petition to ensure their perspectives are thoroughly heard,” wrote Stanford Athletics spokesperson Carter Henderson in an email to The Daily.
The 36 Stanford Sports petition includes “a runway for the 11 sports to self-endow their programs in perpetuity and build a model for other sports and other schools to fix the broken NCAA financial model.” So far, the group has raised more than $30 million in pledges, putting the total amount of money to support the discontinued sports at more than $50 million when combined with existing endowments.
Members of 36 Sports Strong include a number of decorated former Cardinal, many of whom have competed at the highest levels of their respective sports.
Stanford has recently faced renewed pressure to reinstate the sports following Griffith’s NCAA Championship win. For the entirety of its season, wrestling competed in all-black singlets without the word “Stanford” across the chest and referred to itself by “Keep Stanford Wrestling,” rather than the typical Stanford Cardinal.
Fencers have also worn “Keep Stanford Fencing” sweatshirts, and field hockey has competed with black tape striking through the word “Stanford” on its uniforms to protest the university’s decision.
The other seven programs set to be discontinued are lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming and men’s volleyball. Collectively, these 11 programs “have produced 48 Olympians, 27 Olympic medals and 20 national championships” according to 36 Sports Strong.