“We thought, all of us in our group chat, that this was going to be updates about housing and stuff” like practice, said Noah Sebastian Matricciani, a sophomore fencer.
The call lasted five minutes.
“It was, ‘This is the process that’s going to happen, we’re cutting these 11 programs,’” Matricciani said. “No discussion, no questions.”
Added another fencer, senior Anna Lee: “To see it all come crashing down feels fake, like a prank almost. I can’t help but wonder if this was really the last resort. For a school that emphasized persistence and flaunted school pride, it seems abrupt to just call it quits.”
Among the sports that will be dropped after the next academic year are four that have been problematic for the school — co-ed and women’s sailing, and men’s and lightweight rowing.
A little over a year ago, sailing Coach John Vandemoer was fired after being swept up in the nationwide college admissions scandal. Shortly after that, the school fired the rowing Coach Craig Amerkhanian for violating employee behavior policies. Both programs operate out of a gleaming, 16,500-square foot boathouse named after John Arrillaga Sr., a developer and former Stanford basketball player who is one of the school’s most prominent benefactors.
Though Stanford had churned out a steady stream of Olympic rowers over the years, more recently the program had endured budget cuts. Stanford spent $386,000 on its rowing program in 2017 — a 30 percent cut from its peak and dwarfed by what Washington ($1.25 million) and Yale and California (each around $675,000) were spending. Coaches in so-called nonrevenue sports were expected to be active in fund-raising.
Nevertheless, the Stanford lightweight rowing team swept the 2019 national championships.
“What a terribly sad day,” said Yasmin Farooq, the rowing coach at Washington who left Stanford in 2016 after 10 seasons. She said the move would also be a blow for the United States Olympic team, which would lose a strong feeder program. “I can’t even imagine how the lightweight women must feel.”