September 30, 2010

Sherry Questions Cal's Choice to Ax Women's Lacrosse, Cites Use of Funds

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Cal women's lacrosse coach Theresa Sherry says there should have been more transparency in the university decision to cut her program and five others in 2011-12.

Cal women's lacrosse coach Theresa Sherry spoke out Wednesday against the university and called for more transparency in the wake of its announcement that her program would be among five sports eliminated due to budgetary concerns.

Sherry, a fourth-year head coach, questioned the decisions made by university chancellor Robert Birgeneau and athletic director Sandy Barbour, while citing that $50,000 in fundraising had already been taken from the women's lacrosse budget and earmarked for the 2011-2012 academic year.

"What happened to that?" Sherry said. "The thing is, I actually agree that cutting sports probably was called for, but I just don't understand why women's lacrosse was one of the ones that was cut. We've been asking for the numbers [that determined which five sports would be cut]. We want to see the breakdown. If they've been looking at it for the last 13 months, why wasn't it provided? There should be some transparency here."

Sherry said she has sought legal counsel regarding the use of lacrosse funds and the criteria used to cut athletic programs.

"I'm trying to get some advice," she said. "There's a lot of things wrong and I don't appreciate the way that we've been treated."

Dan Mogolov, the university's executive director of public affairs, said Thursday he had no knowledge of any pending legal action stemming from Tuesday's announcement. Men's gymnastics, women's gymnastics, baseball and rugby were the other sports eliminated in the university's effort to cut $5 million from its athletics budget by 2014.

“Everyone deeply regrets the human toll these decisions will make,” Birgeneau said in a press conference Tuesday.

Said Barbour: "Cal athletics is not immune to the effects of the recession and the financial realities facing this campus... I have been very loud and very frequent in expressing my thoughts on intercollegiate athletics from a financial standpoint. All of intercollegiate athletics needs to take a very, very hard look at what we’re spending and why."

Birgeneau added that cost was not the only criteria for cutting teams. He cited the existence of national and regional varsity competition, Title IX, diversity concerns, NCAA and Pac 10 success, and a history of competitive excellence as contributing factors in the decision towards which teams were eliminated.

Cal women's lacrosse, entering its 12th year as a varsity program, has been a cornerstone for the growth of the sport on the West Coast.

"Cal has a long tradition of a strong women's lacrosse program and has many ties to our local community," said Heidi Faith, director of the Northern California Chapter of US Lacrosse. "To have one of the most emerging sports in California and the West cut from varsity status is unbelievable."

The Bears are scheduled to scrimmage Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rival Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday. Cardinal coach Amy Bokker has attempted to rally the local lacrosse community for turnout in support of Cal's cause.

As of Wednesday, Sherry said the Bears planned to play out their 2011 campaign. Players have the option of preserving their eligibility. The school will honor all existing scholarships and will aid students who wish to transfer to other institutions. Student-athletes who transfer due to program elimination do not have to sit out a year.

"I think that we're going to field a team for 2011 because even if the freshmen want to transfer, they just need to be seen," Sherry said. "A lot of them weren't seen in the recruiting process. I think that the underclassmen also have already established a really tight bond with the upperclassmen. I think it's really hard for any of us to feel like we want to do anything with Cal on our jerseys. But it would be for lacrosse, and for each other."

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