Stanford University Women’s Field Hockey’s season is done. It’s likely that so, too, is their program.
The Field Hockey program was one of 11 cut by Stanford prior to the 2020-21 academic year, with the school citing finances and “competitive excellence” as their reasons for dismantling the programs.
Prior to Sunday’s loss in the NCAA tournament to top-ranked North Carolina in the Elite Eight, Stanford Field Hockey won its second-straight America East Championship and its fourth in the past five seasons.
Stanford competed in the NCAA tournament with a stripe through their school’s name in continuation of a season-long protest. The statement echoes the all-black unitards Stanford wrestlers wore at the NCAA championships, including the wrestling team’s second-ever national champion, Shane Griffith.
Following the loss, UNC Field Hockey tweeted in support of Stanford’s program.
Bigger than what happens on the field 💙🏑❤️This was the scene following our game today as Tar Heel captain @courtnie_w delivered a message of support to @StanfordFH on behalf of our program #FHfamily pic.twitter.com/cIyPiE5JW0— UNC Field Hockey (@UNCFieldHockey) May 2, 2021
Bigger than what happens on the field 💙🏑❤️This was the scene following our game today as Tar Heel captain @courtnie_w delivered a message of support to @StanfordFH on behalf of our program #FHfamily pic.twitter.com/cIyPiE5JW0
Prior to their game against the Cardinal earlier in the tournament, the Miami Redhawks were seen holding a banner in support of the program.
This is the reality so many schools are facing. This pic was taken today at the NCAA Tournament for Field Hockey prior to Stanford’s game. The team holding the banner is their opponent. pic.twitter.com/ngDzINDBwO— Mackenzie Wenger (@mac_wenger) April 30, 2021
This is the reality so many schools are facing. This pic was taken today at the NCAA Tournament for Field Hockey prior to Stanford’s game. The team holding the banner is their opponent. pic.twitter.com/ngDzINDBwO
A group of Stanford alumni called 36 Sports Strong has formed to try and reverse the university’s decision. So far, it has received more than $50 million in pledges to save the sports. The group, with advocates Andrew Luck (football), Julie Foudy (soccer), Kerri Walsh Jennings (volleyball), Josh Childress (basketball), Janet Evans (swimming) and Michelle Wie (golf), believes they will be able to raise enough money to allow the sports to become financially self-sustaining.
However, their efforts have been met with staunch refusal by the administration to discuss possible solutions. The administration alleges that 36 Sports Strong’s financial evaluation is inaccurate.
“Discontinuing sports was an extremely painful decision, and it was driven by the financial challenges of supporting twice as many varsity teams as the Division I average at the level we believe is essential for our student-athletes to excel,” said a Stanford spokesperson. “The fundraising numbers cited by groups that have organized to reinstate individual sports and all 11 sports have significantly underestimated the total amount of funding required to support the programs they wish to reinstate and, in most cases, do not appear to be accounting for the need to adhere to Title IX gender equity requirements.”
But some don’t believe the decision was truly financial. Others have pointed to admissions as a potential issue, as the roughly 850 athletes make up 12 percent of the undergraduate population. While each athlete holds impressive academic achievements, the admissions threshold for a recruited athlete is not as stringent as the general population, resulting in the belief that the decision to cut the sports was to open up 240 admissions slots to students with different academic profiles.
The idea that “competitive excellence” was a factor has fallen flat as the cut programs have excelled in their respective sports during their seasons.
Yet the university has remained strong in asserting that the cuts were about finances and competitive excellence.
As for Stanford Field Hockey, the program certainly isn’t going quietly. So far, the petition to save Stanford’s field hockey team has garnered almost 20,000 signatures.