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Brown transitions 11 varsity teams to club status

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

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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