Stanford University reverses decision to cut sports programs, lawsuit dropped

Stanford University announced Tuesday that it has changed course on the future of 11 sports programs.

University officials plan to continue the programs and not proceed with any of the planned cuts that were announced last year.

Last July, school officials revealed the elimination of men's and women's fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men's rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men's volleyball, and wrestling.

Stanford defended its move as one based purely on its financial benefit, but alumnus Christina Cavallo, a former member of Stanford’s lightweight rowing team who was involved in efforts to convince the university not to move forward with the plan, says all proposed ideas were shot down.

"Because every argument that we came with they would say that’s not the issue or this isn’t the issue or it’s strictly financial. We’d always boil it down no, no, no it’s nothing else you could think of its only financial," Cavallo told KTVU.

But in a change, a statement from the university Tuesday said it has now been "bolstered by an improved financial picture with increased fundraising potential."

"We have new optimism based on new circumstances, including vigorous and broad-based philanthropic interest in Stanford Athletics on the part of our alumni, which have convinced us that raising the increased funds necessary to support all 36 of our varsity teams is an approach that can succeed," said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

After the initial announcement by Stanford in July of 2020, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of students on eight sports programs that were on the chopping block.

The students were represented by John Kessler of Winston & Strawn, which said he has now withdrawn the suit due to the Stanford announcement.

A lawsuit filed by students of eight affected teams has now been withdrawn.  Lead attorney John Kessler of Winston & Strawn, the attorney representing them sent a statement that reads: "This is the best possible outcome. Until these students stood up for their teams in court, Stanford maintained that its decision to cancel the teams was final.  Today, that ‘final’ decision is no more, and the students could not be happier."

A separate lawsuit was filed on behalf of female athletes that would have been affected by the change.

"We are thrilled that the teams are being reinstated and Stanford's female athletes can continue to compete.  However, we don't have detailed information yet about the terms of the reinstatement, and we do want to ensure that Stanford complies with Title IX going forward," said a statement from their attorney, Rebecca Peterson-Fisher.

Matthew Atencio, co-director for the Center for Sports and Social Justice says Stanford’s change signifies a larger trend of athletes and prominent alumni pushing for change.

"Institutions now have to take into account the voice of the people that are part of their programs. And I think that’s something new, part of a larger trend that we’re seeing," Atencio said.