University meets with 36 Sports Strong, both sides optimistic

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Alumni advocacy group 36 Sports Strong and University officials have not yet reached resolution regarding the 11 discontinued varsity sports after a Tuesday meeting called by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, but both sides say they are optimistic about further dialogue.

The two sides discussed a new partnership to raise the money to self-endow the 11 varsity programs cut by the University in July, after Stanford cited a mounting financial deficit exacerbated by the pandemic.

“The purpose of the meeting was to ensure that their perspectives were heard,” a University spokesperson told The Daily, adding that Tessier-Lavigne felt “the group had a substantive and very informative exchange.” 

“At this point, we have no further comment until the board has met to consider the petition and provide input to Stanford management, and the president and provost render a decision on the petition,” the spokesperson added. 

36 Sports Strong representatives were similarly enthused.

“We believe President Tessier-Lavigne and the Board’s Athletics subcommittee are trying to lead an earnest effort to review the decision,” 36 Sports Strong spokesperson Jeremy Jacobs ’06, a men’s volleyball alum, wrote in a statement. “We look forward to continuing the conversation about how this plan will work for Stanford students,” he added. 

The Board’s Athletics subcommittee will meet with the full Board to discuss the proposal in a special meeting at a later date. Following that meeting, the Board will make a formal recommendation to Tessier-Lavigne.

Alumni group representatives in attendance included Jacobs, wrestling alum and co-chair of Keep Stanford Wrestling Robert Hatta ’97, former NBA player and two-sport Cardinal athlete Adam Keefe ’92, field hockey alum and member of Organization of Stanford Women Athletes Kathy Levinson ’77, four-time All-American and two-time Olympic fencer Alexander Massialas ’16 and men’s rowing alum Nathalie Weiss ’16. 

On the university’s side, big names including Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell, Vice President for Development Jon Denney, Athletic Director Bernard Muir and the members of the Board of Trustees’ Athletics subcommittee were present.

“There’s lots of discussions underway,” said Jeff Raikes ’80, chair of Stanford’s Board of Trustees.

Those discussions come amid outrage from many current students and alumni, who fought back against the University’s decision through fundraising, conversations with administration, newspaper publications and social media. According to 36 Sports Strong, the group has raised more than $50 million in both pledged money and existing endowments to save the sports.

“Cutting these sports does not come close to solving the Athletic Department’s financial challenges,” Jacobs wrote. “We said we could quibble over specific numbers, but there is no question that cutting 11 of the school’s least expensive sports — including several that were already partially or fully endowed — does not fix the department’s runaway deficits that have existed for close to a decade.”

According to the statement, the department’s deficit actually increased by $11.5 million after the sports were cut. 

Michael Espinosa contributed reporting.

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Jeremy Rubin is a managing editor in the sports section. He is a sophomore from New York City studying Human Biology and is an avid Yankees, Knicks and Jets fan who enjoys long walks and good podcasts. Contact him at jrubin 'at' stanforddaily.com.