BERKELEY, Calif., May 2, 2011 — The University of California, Berkeley today announced that the university’s men’s gymnastics program will remain as an intercollegiate sport. The decision was made based on the fundraising efforts which generated more than $2.5 million.
"This is a win-win for UC Berkeley and men’s gymnastics,"said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. " I want to congratulate the University, the men’s gymnastics program and Cal Gymnastics Forever for working together to find a resolution. While there is more work that remains to be done, we appreciate the more than 1,000 people who have written letters of support and made financial pledges to support this storied program."
Although short of the $4 million goal, the funds raised will support the men’s gymnastics program for at least 7-10 years. Scholarship commitments for returning student-athletes are guaranteed, but athletic scholarships for new recruits will be restricted until funding is in place. As additional money is raised toward the $4 million objective, scholarships will be incrementally increased as possible.
" We recognize the importance of providing stability for men’s gymnastics at this important juncture and are reinstating the program under the conditions that are supported by current financial resources," Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said. "Once again, I want to thank our donors for their unprecedented response during these challenging economic times."
"Words cannot even begin to express how happy I am that the Cal men’s gymnastics team has been reinstated," said Tim McNeill, who just completed his first year as head coach for UC Berkeley’s men’s gymnastics team and was named the 2011 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year. " I’m so thankful for the outpouring of support we received, from Cal’s athletic department, the Chancellor, our incredible alumni and the team members’ parents who worked around the clock to make this happen. This result would not have been possible if not for the current team’s never-give-up attitude. They held their heads high all year and have not only inspired me, but the entire gymnastics community. This last year was our 99th season, and I’m absolutely elated that we will be here to see our 100th season and beyond."
Under the director of McNeill, the Golden Bears placed fourth at the NCAA Championships April 15. Overall, Cal has finished among the top five nationally 20 times since 1959, winning NCAA titles in 1968, ’75, ’97 and ’98.
" We have much to be appreciative for and I couldn’t be happier for members of our men’s gymnastics program," Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. " Our community has made its passion for our athletic programs abundantly clear for all to see. Throughout this challenging year, our teams and our student-athletes have performed at a level that rivals the best in our history. To say that Cal Athletics, together with our community, has ‘ risen to the challenge’ is indeed an understatement."
"We are absolutely thrilled that the Chancellor has given the men’s gymnastics team the opportunity to continue its 99-year tradition of excellence," said Neil Popovic, a Cal gymnast from 1979-83 and one of the leaders of the Cal Gymnastics Forever fundraising effort. "This decision means the amazing young scholar-athletes on the team can recognize their dream of competing at the highest level of men’s gymnastics and pursuing a world-class education at Cal. Many, many people contributed to this effort, and they should all be proud, as should Chancellor Birgeneau, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and the entire Cal sports community. What a great team effort!"
Cal Gymnastics Forever will continue its fundraising efforts to reach the $4 million goal, which will provide for scholarships for future recruiting years.
Since UC Berkeley announced last September that four sports – baseball, men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse – would be eliminated and rugby assigned to a newly created tier at the end of the 2010-11 academic year, donors have pledged more than $20 million to allow for the preservation of all five programs at the intercollegiate athletics level.
— Cal Gymnastics Forever and the University of California, Berkeley contributed to this report.