Cal Baseball officially reinstated as team preps for College World Series

After generating more than $9.7 million in philanthropic commitments, the University of California, Berkeley baseball program has been formally reinstated as an intercollegiate sport on campus, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced today (Friday, June 17).

Cal baseball players at the Super Regional

In April, Birgeneau gave baseball provisional reinstatement after supporters had raised $9 million of the $10 million goal.

“Our baseball program and its supporters are a remarkable community that has shown everyone the best attributes of any athletics program – a strong competitive spirit, dedication to excellence and achievement, and pure heart,” said Birgeneau.

“As the semester ends and this baseball season wraps up, I want everyone to know that Cal baseball is formally reinstated,” he said. “While we are still just short of the $10 million goal, the fundraising has been so successful that I have no doubt it will soon reach and, indeed, surpass that target.”

Along with game day and special event revenues, the fulfillment of these pledges will cover baseball’s direct and indirect costs for the next 7-10 years, allowing sufficient time for the campus and members of the baseball donor community to develop a long-term plan that will financially sustain the team.

Cal baseball, in the midst of one of its most successful seasons in its more than 100-year history, is headed this weekend to Omaha, Neb., for the 2011 College World Series. The Bears will play the University of Virginia Cavaliers on Sunday at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

Last September, campus officials announced that baseball – along with men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse – would be eliminated due to pressure on UC Berkeley’s budget as a result of dwindling state support for higher education and rising athletic department expenses. In addition, rugby was to be reassigned to a newly-created sports tier.

However, as of this month, alumni, former players, parents of current players and other team supporters have pledged an unprecedented amount to preserve all five sports programs at the intercollegiate athletics level.

“Our Cal community has once again demonstrated its passionate support for our student-athletes with an unparalleled level of commitment,” Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. “Throughout this long and complex process, I have continued to be impressed by the dedication and perseverance shown by our supporters to see this goal attained.

“But our job is not finished,” she said, “and challenges still lie ahead for our department as a whole. With our 29-sport program intact, we can now turn our attention to developing a comprehensive strategy to ensure the long-term financial health of all of our teams. I hope that many others will join us in this effort.”

Part of that strategy, Barbour added, is the creation and implementation of a new multi-year fundraising effort. It will enable Cal Athletics to address the campus’s decision to cap institutional support for Cal Athletics at $5 million a year by 2014 and to continue to sponsor one of the most broad-based and successful intercollegiate athletics programs in the country.