Brown transitions 11 varsity teams to club status

University adds two teams to varsity status for net reduction of nine varsity teams

University News Editor
Thursday, May 28, 2020

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

The University will transition 11 varsity teams — men and women’s fencing, men and women’s golf, women’s skiing, men and women’s squash, women’s equestrian and men’s track, field and cross country — to club status, effective immediately, according to a community-wide email sent today from President Christina Paxson P’19. Additionally, club coed sailing and club women’s sailing will transition to varsity status, for a net reduction of nine varsity teams, from 38 to 29. 

In spite of the cut, the University will maintain the current operational budget for athletics, and funds will be allocated “strategically” throughout the Department of Athletics. “The smaller number of varsity teams also will support stronger recruiting in the admissions process, allowing for deeper talent on each team,” Paxson wrote. 

Students who have already been recruited to varsity teams no longer on the roster will be invited to “live Zoom sessions with Athletics staff, colleagues in the College and other support staff to have their questions answered and learn more about their options,” including the potential of transferring to another institution, Paxson wrote. “Brown is also committed to supporting our coaches in this transition.”

The large-scale cut comes as part of the new Excellence in Brown Athletics initiative to strengthen both club sports and the competitiveness of varsity sports, as well as maintain the University’s “commitment to provide equal opportunities in athletics for women and men at Brown.” The reduction in varsity teams “is not a measure to reduce budget or an effort to contend with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Paxson specified.

In the email, Paxson outlined four different courses of action which will advance the goals of the initiative: “Revise the University’s roster of varsity sports teams; enhance club sports teams and add several new ones; focus on recruitment of outstanding student-athletes and on maintaining roster sizes that build competitiveness; advance coaching, training and conditioning resources; and continue improvements to athletic facilities,” according to a University press release. Paxson also noted that the change will mean “the percentage of varsity athletic participation opportunities for women will increase” to be more proportionally consistent with the percentage of women among University undergraduates.

The initiative follows an external review of the Athletics Department conducted in the 2018-2019 academic year, which concluded that “the high number of varsity sports at Brown was a barrier to competitiveness,” according to the press release. 

After the review, President Christina Paxson P’19 appointed a Committee on Excellence in Athletics in January 2020 to make recommendations in the best interest of student-athletes and the Athletics Department. The ultimate decision was the result of a “thorough, data-driven review,” she wrote. 

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  1. Imagine. A slight economic hiccup and an ivy league university has to cut 11 teams 🤣🤣 what a joke

    • The athletic budget is remaining the same, so this isn’t in response to “a slight economic hiccup”. They’re just trying to funnel the budget towards sports they deem worthwhile.

  2. imagine thinking this would have happened without covid. Athletics is funded with an endowment and as such the endowment yields lower returns when the market is in a period of economic downturn. Sure, it is probably motivated by what you describe as well but I would be hard pressed to believe that the pandemic had nothing to do with it.

    • Alumna Class of 2016 says:

      Brown has been trying to cut skiing and other teams to club status since 2012-2013. I was a student rep on the Brown University Community Council that year, and they were already talking about cutting a lot of teams, including skiing. They only relented to skiing after a lot of pressure and a huge fundraising from the team. It’s got nothing to do with Covid, and everything to do with the fact that there are way too many teams at Brown. I’m so sorry for the student athletes who worked hard for this, but the department of athletics’ is one of the lowest performing of the Ivy, and skiing in particular makes no sense in RI. They have to travel miles and miles to train! I just wished they had allowed the current students, as much as possible, to continue training as varsity until the programs were phased out. I’m also very surprised they cut track. Of all the sports, it’s been doing relatively well. I’m sorry for the students on the team.

      • Current Brown Student says:

        This is incredibly misinformed. It doesn’t matter if there are mountains in RI or not — there aren’t mountains near Boston but Harvard still skis. Every college ski team (besides Dartmouth and Middlebury) drives an hour and a half or more, even UNH or St. Lawrence University.

        The bigger issue here is the principle and utter disregard for 150 careers and commitments to Brown University Athletics. Many of them got offers from other institutions in their conference. Now, all the athletics department wants to do is push us out the door with no other Ivy League accepting transfers right now. That’s gross and not what this community and institution is about. Please take a moment to explore the facts before you insult this extraordinary group.

  3. John Barrett says:

    It has nothing to do with budget or pandemic and everything to do with Brown’s embarrassingly low Ivy League “Championship” percentage of 2.8%, which was mentioned in the letter from President Paxson. This is a good move for the University.

    • disappointed bear says:

      Agreed except Track is one of the longest running programs in school history. Don’t cut that one, fund it and get us back to winning. We had Olympians come out of this program in the past. How do you cut out 70 years of history?

    • Current Brown Student says:

      Good one, John. You clearly know that across all of the teams (not just track) that there are academic all-Americans (you have to contribute substantially academically AND athletically to get that one) and NCAA championship qualifiers, among other significant awards that NO OTHER TEAMS RECEIVE. If you’re looking to fix the “embarrassingly low Ivy League “Championship” percentage of 2.8%,” I would implore you to look at the Football team which they have bent over backward for. They are an embarrassment to this institution, to this state, and to alumni. You can’t talk about Brown Football without someone saying how terrible they are and what a waste of the institution’s resources it is. Almost everyone at this institution could care less about their alumni donations and don’t want their toxic masculinity to infiltrate this institution any further.

      You might also want to look at Softball and Baseball (12-27), Rugby (2-5), and Women’s Hockey (3-23) before you try to justify that the teams that were cut were appropriate.

  4. Observer says:

    Of all the cuts men’s cross country and track and field is most surprising. Cannot be about facilities.

  5. I imagine this is tough news for the athletes involved in those 11 sports; however, this is the right thing to do long-term. Brown should have reallocated budget and bodies to the Crew, Lacrosse, Soccer, et al. programs years ago.

  6. Ivy League colleges should take the lead and eliminate all sports and just make them clubs. They should be first and foremost academic institutions.

    • Alumni 98 says:

      Brown’s gender balance gets a big bonus by cutting Track & Field and CC. For example, male CC runners count as 2 and maybe 3 slots (cross country, track, indoor track). It would be interesting for the university to be more transparent about data and the consultant’s report given Paxson’s emphasis of both these inputs to the process.

      As for the data. Let’s start with slots by sport. Next, let’s see the numbers behind the headline grabbing 2.8% championship number- by sport, by year. While we are being transparent, could they also disclose alumni contributions by team? How about costs per team? Given all the reliance on data, let the data tell the story. Perhaps Paxson and her team could trust their community enough to make their own data driven conclusions about this process.

  7. Brown Alum says:

    Brown cuts the most internationally diverse sports with the highest GPAs ….

    and optimizes for sports that cause brain damage and has dozens of drop outs

    Top Sports for concussions:
    Football (men only)
    Womens Ice Hockey
    Mens Ice Hockey
    Womens soccer
    Mens Lacrosse

  8. The three men’s sports are cross-country (fall), indoor track and field (winter), and outdoor track and field (spring). It’s not that track and field are different sports.

  9. Dave Snyder '71, MD '75, P '02,'04,'12 says:

    I am delighted to see that President Paxson has moved to improve Brown’s athletic stature in the Ivy League. A few of our teams have consistently done very well but most have had lackluster records. If we are going to compete, let’s do well. We can maintain great teams as well as superlative academics. As the former captain of the sailing team (1969) I am glad that sailing has moved up to varsity level. Brown has had one of the oldest and best sailing teams in the country and deserves this promotion.
    Despite these great intentions, the problem, which has not been addressed is twofold:
    1- Brown is not competitive in recruiting and properly treating potential student athletes. The kids are treated rudely and flippantly by some of the coaches and fail compared to treatment these kids receive at other Ivies.
    2- The admission office and the financial aid office have to be committed to taking the best athletes, even if they do not score perfect 800’s on the SAT, and scholarship money for kids who need it must be competitive with other schools. Otherwise, kids wind up matriculating at that school on the north side of Boston.
    We all want the best for our alma mater- let’s hope this works.

  10. Dave Snyder '71, MD '75, P '02,'04,'12 says:

    As pertains to my reply above,I would be happy to furnish examples of terrible treatment of great kids during the recruitment process that I was personally involved with. There were many others as well.
    1) Third generation legacy, great grades, #1 tennis player coming out of California.
    Rejected by admission office
    2) Second generation legacy, #4 tennis player from Florida- excellent grades
    Rejected by admission office
    3) This year -#1 High School placekicker in country ( I furnished video clips of
    the kid kicking 60+ yard field goals as a junior in HS) really wanted Brown-
    treated terribly and rudely by coach et al, even rude and nasty to me when I
    This needs to change !!

    • You’re complaining about legacy kids not getting in and the admissions office not acknowledging you when you called them complaining? Seriously?

  11. Hanley Bajaj says:

    Honestly Brown should cut all varsity sports teams. There is no reason for a school whose sports teams regularly put up 4-25 records to keep spending money on those programs. And recruits to Brown get to bypass the admissions process for these teams? Seriously?

  12. Elise Solazzo says:

    These Zoom meetings to “have our questions answered” are a lie- all of our questions were censored through a moderator, and we were only allowed to ask about the transfer process. Why is Brown so keen on having its students leave in a time when it’s claiming to be broke?

  13. It’s a wonderful lesson you are teaching these kids. When times are hard and your losing just quit, give up and call it a day. Most of these kids got offers for other schools at least roll this our over 4 years
    What record does the president of the university judge himself on? When has Brown been considered the most prestigious ivy league school? Maybe the president should take his own advice.

  14. Athletic alum ‘11 says:

    The idea that cutting these teams to reallocate their budgets is somehow going to equate to the “excellence” in other sports is ludicrous. Brown’s barrier to excellence is in the structure of the Ivy League, not the fault of the passionate student-athletes and coaches getting the ax here. For those not familiar, the Ivy League (as in the Div 1 NCAA conference comprised of the 8 Ivy League schools) has 2 strict requirements: student-athletes must meet the same minimum academic requirements as all other students, and no sports merit scholarships may be offered. As you can imagine, this instantly puts a limit on the type of athlete Brown can recruit in sports like football, especially because within these constraints, if you’re a top football player with high SATs, why not go to Harvard instead where the requirements are the same? Brown has been salivating since 2008 at the bizzaire belief that they could turn football and basketball into sources of school pride and into alumni money-machines if only they could be allowed to throw more money at the programs. It’s never going to happen, both for the systemic reasons above and the simple fact that Brown’s culture is so far removed from that of a football school that it’s not even funny. You might think that I’d argue to cut that program instead, but actually just the opposite. If Brown wants to turn athletics into a money-machine, it would be far better to support *all* of their teams, and foster relationships with all of their athletic alumni, who are statistically more likely to donate anyway because of the pride they feel for their teams. Make Brown a place that embraces and celebrates the passion of its students, not one that myopically pursues a strategy that literally cannot work for them at the expense of those students.

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