May 18 (UPI) -- Stanford University has reversed a controversial decision it made last year and won't eliminate 11 varsity sports programs, the school announced.
The university's decision comes after months of pressure from alumni, students and coaches, as well as a fundraising effort -- led by a group called 36 Sports Strong -- aimed at helping the sports programs become financially stable.
"We have new optimism based on new circumstances, including vigorous and broad-based philanthropic interest in Stanford Athletics on the part of our alumni, which have convinced us that raising the increased funds necessary to support all 36 of our varsity teams is an approach that can succeed," Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement Tuesday.
Stanford officials announced last summer that it wasn't sustainable to continue to support 36 athletic programs, leading to the school's decision to disband the 11 varsity sports after the 2020-21 academic year. The university called the decision a "last resort" and said it "comes down primarily to finances and competitive excellence."
The 36 Sports Strong group debunked Stanford's claims and said the cuts would save the university about $4.5 million per year, which equates to roughly 3% of the athletic department's budget. The 11 varsity programs also already had a combined $23 million endowment and had received nearly $50 million in pledges.
About 240 student-athletes who compete in men's and women's fencing, field hockey, men's volleyball, wrestling, lightweight rowing, co-ed and women's sailing, squash and synchronized swimming were set to be impacted by the school's decision.
"We are grateful for their engagement, and we are looking forward to getting to work with them," 36 Sports Strong said in a statement. "Champions persevere, and they find new ways to win. That's what Stanford has done here.
"Facing challenges, Stanford and its alumni have come together to build a solution that will cement its status as the best athletics department in the country."