Sonoma State University dropping 3 sports in coronavirus-related budget crunch

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Sonoma State University has cut three sports from its athletic program in a cost-saving measure in part caused by the coronavirus-fueled economic downturn and its effect on the state education budget.

Women’s water polo and men’s and women’s tennis will be discontinued at the end of the 2019-20 academic year, although the campus is closed and all sports have been canceled since mid-March because of countywide shelter-in-place orders.

Eliminating those three sports will save the school nearly $800,000, which will be reallocated to other sports programs, the school said in an email announcement Tuesday night.

“This was a difficult decision driven in no small part by the new financial realities facing our state, the CSU system and our university,” school President Judy Sakaki said. “As disappointing as this decision is, this leaves us in a better position going forward to support our existing athletic teams while protecting our commitment to student success in academics.”

The cuts affect 34 players and five coaches on the rosters of the three teams.

Nineteen of those were receiving some kind of scholarship, university spokesman Paul Gullixson said.

Student-athletes who received financial athletic aid and decide to stay at SSU will continue to receive the financial support during the 2020-2021 academic year, the university said.

Of 24 students who planned to return to school next year, 16 have asked to be put on an NCAA list to be considered for transfer to another institution, said co-interim athletic director Stan Nosek.

NCAA rules require the student-athletes in these sports be granted athletic eligibility if they choose to transfer to another school next season. The university will assist them in the transfer process, Nosek said.

The university is helping coaches, who were notified Monday night, explore potential internal or external moves, he said.

Before the cuts, SSU had 14 sports teams, among the most of any NCAA Division II institution in the California State University system.

The school must sponsor at least 10 teams to compete in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. None of the three sports being discontinued is sponsored by the CCAA.

Cutting the three programs leaves the school with 11 teams: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s golf, baseball, softball, women’s cross country, women’s track and field and women’s volleyball.

The cost savings “will allow the university to enhance the experience for future student-athletes while providing the best opportunity for competing successfully within the CCAA,” the school’s announcement said.

Sonoma State remains committed to its future in NCAA Division II athletics, Nosek said.

“The savings realized by retaining only those sports sponsored through the CCAA will be reinvested into providing scholarships and services in support of student-athletes’ athletic and academic success,” he said.

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