June 12, 1997
After extensive analysis of the costs and participation levels in our Intercollegiate Athletic programs, and through consultation with the Athletic Department, the University Budget Advisory Board and the Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Council, I have reached the regrettable conclusion that we must discontinue four men's sports teams to meet our budget responsibilities and our ethical obligation to provide equitable opportunities for male and female student athletes. The men's sports that we will discontinue are baseball, volleyball, soccer and swimming.
This was a very difficult and, as you have read, controversial decision. We are particularly sorry that this will be painful for student athletes and coaching staffs. During the past few years, the University has taken several actions that were designed to preserve and enhance our Intercollegiate Athletic Program. These included reorganizing management, upgrading facilities, joining the Big Sky Conference and making long term general fund commitments to the program. CSUN students taxed themselves to provide additional funding; the university community supported additional funding for athletics even during these times of reduced state resources.
Our hopes that these efforts would place the program on a solid footing were proved wrong when it became apparent that the additional expenses of Big Sky competition drove the athletic budget into deficit. In addition, because we had agreed to meet the gender equity commitments of the CSU, the logic of reducing men's sports became the only option available to fulfill these obligations. Our clear preference would have been to maintain all of the men's sports we had and to add women's sports to achieve equitable participation. But that was not a realistic option; nor was lessening financial support to our academic programs an acceptable choice.
We understand the disappointment and anger that members of the sports community will express about this decision. Some will characterize our dilemma as only a budget problem; others will blame the legislation and court decisions that require us to offer an equitable balance of opportunities for men and women. To me, the primary question was how could we do what was ethically right and also maintain a high quality and competitive athletic program without damaging our primary teaching, research and public service mission. Understandably the debates about the athletic program will be around single vested interests; my obligation to the University, however, is to uphold both the integrity of the University's internal decision-making processes and the primacy of our academic mission.
As I look back over the last five years at Cal State Northridge, this is not the first time we have had to be certain about our values and priorities. We are first and foremost an academic institution in which the opportunity for athletic competition serves a very small proportion of our student body. We appreciate the contribution these athletes make to the overall campus environment and, for this reason, hope to preserve a strong and competitive conference program. We will do that in a manner that fulfills the letter and the spirit of Title IX and the CSU-NOW agreement.
I believe we have made the right choices, as difficult as they have been, and we will do everything we can to mitigate the negative effects of these decisions on our athletes and coaching staff. I would ask all members of the campus community to support them, to support our continuing efforts to maintain Division I sports and to understand that the emotion that will be displayed in the media is one measure of the degree to which sports influence our general culture.
Blenda J. Wilson