Cal Baseball Living Proof That Miracles Happen 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

BERKELEY, Calif. — It may be the most remarkable story in college sports history.

In September of 2010, administrators at the University of California announced their intention to eliminate baseball to fall in line with Title IX.

It was a shocking announcement since the baseball program was the oldest athletics team at the school with a proud 119-year history through the 2010 season.

The baseball program had won two national titles, including the first College World Series in 1947, another in 1957, and had appeared in the CWS five times heading into the 2011 season.

California baseball boosters, led by Stu Gordon, came to the rescue of the baseball program, securing $10 million in commitments in only five weeks which allowed the program to be rescued from the chopping block.

For 10 years (2011-2020), money from the California Baseball Foundation made up of more than 1,000 boosters financed the baseball program at California to make it a fully funded NCAA Division I varsity sport. This scenario had never happened in the annals of college sports before.

After the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season, another startling development took place.

The University of California entered into a 15-year contract with the California Baseball Foundation that the baseball program would be once again funded by the University. Under conditions of the contract, the baseball program could not be eliminated during the next 15-year period (2035).

As part of the contract, the baseball program is responsible for coming up with $600,000 a year, plus 3 percent, every year during this 15-year period of time, according to Stu Gordon of the California Baseball Foundation.

It was the first time in sports history a full varsity sport in NCAA Div. I had been eliminated, brought back to life by its boosters by raising $10 million in five weeks and then brought back into the fold by the university 10 years later.

“The entire story is pretty amazing,” said California Head Baseball Coach Mike Neu.

“After the 2020 season, the California Baseball Foundation signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with the University of California,” said Neu.

“Essentially, it is a contract where the baseball program is now funded by the University. We still have to fundraise about $600,000 a year. We operated our program from 2010 until the end of the 2020 season by the California Baseball Foundation made up of boosters.

“As you can imagine, it was very difficult to sustain. To be a completely self-sustained program by boosters and compete at the level we want is not something we could probably do forever.

“We are funded by the university now and still have a lot of members from the California Baseball Foundation who are instrumental in fundraising and doing things to help our program. But I feel we are in a better spot than we have ever been. It’s nice because there was obviously some very tough times.

“I wasn’t here for the resurrection of the program in 2011. But I got here the year after as an assistant coach. So I got a chance to see how the program was saved, rebuilt and still here 12 years later being funded by the University.

“Frankly, the future looks great.”

Neu said from 2010-2020, the California Baseball Foundation led by Stu Gordon (pitcher on the Cal. 1960-61 teams) worked with administrators at California to make this highly unusual situation work as boosters refused to let the baseball program die.

This bold plan had never been done in college athletics’ history for a varsity sport on the NCAA Division I level, according to several long time administrators Collegiate Baseball contacted.

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