Former Buford state champions Logan Ashton and Charlie Darracott got devastating news Wednesday when Stanford University announced it planned to cut 11 varsity programs, including their wrestling team, because of financial challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ashton just finished his freshman year at Stanford (he wrestled only 13 matches and took a redshirt year), while Darracott signed for the 2020-21 school year. The 11 programs will be discontinued after the 2020-21 school year.
In addition to wrestling, Stanford’s cuts were men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming and men’s volleyball.
Stanford broke the news to coaches and athletes via Zoom calls Wednesday.
“Heartbroken doesn’t begin to describe how I’m feeling right now,” Ashton posted on Twitter.
Assuming the coronavirus allows it, the Stanford athletes will be permitted to compete for the 2020-21 season. The school will honor their scholarship commitments for an education at Stanford, but it also announced it will assist athletes should they want to compete elsewhere.
The financial burden for Stanford is heavy because it fields 36 varsity teams — only one NCAA Division I FBS level school sponsors more sports and the average Division I program typically sponsors only 18 sports, the school cited in its letter releasing the news.
“This is heartbreaking news to share,” stated the letter, penned by Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, provost Persis Drell and athletic director Bernard Muir. “These 11 programs consist of more than 240 incredible student-athletes and 22 dedicated coaches. They were built by more than 4,000 alumni whose contributions led to 20 national championships, 27 Olympic medals, and an untold number of academic and professional achievements. Each of the individuals associated with these programs will forever have a place in Stanford’s history.”
The school said it looked into a wide variety of alternatives to make up for the money lost from the pandemic, including ticket sales, broadcast revenue, university funding, philanthropic support, operating budget reductions and others, but found they were “insufficient to meet the magnitude of the financial challenge before us.”
“Due to the escalating costs of operating such a large athletics department, a structural deficit emerged several years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter said. “That deficit was projected to exceed $12 million in FY21 and to grow steadily in the years ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession have only exacerbated the gap; before these sport reductions, our revised forecasts indicated a best-case scenario of a $25 million deficit in FY21, factoring in the effects of COVID-19, and a cumulative shortfall of nearly $70 million over the next three years. These projected deficits could become much greater if the 2020-21 sports seasons are suspended or altered due to COVID-19.”
Stanford is one of numerous colleges that have trimmed athletic programs due to COVID-19, but it has cut more programs than others have at this point.