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Save Stanford Rowing Announces Campaign

Updated: Jul 23

STANFORD, CA – July 16, 2020 Save Stanford Rowing announced today its campaign to promote varsity status for Women's Lightweight Rowing and Men's Rowing, by closing the Stanford University Athletics funding shortfall for these programs and engaging with the university on a solution. Save Stanford Rowing will also aim to work collaboratively with other Stanford Athletics programs who are endeavoring to promote varsity status. On July 8, 2020, 11 varsity programs learned of the initial announcement of a varsity status phase-out after the 2020/2021 academic year, including Women’s Lightweight Rowing and Men’s Rowing.

Within the University’s open letter on July 8, 2020, the reduction in varsity programs was explained in primarily financial terms, outlining a long-term underlying structural gap, with a severity accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter outlined the internal consensus amongst the university and athletics department leadership as well as the board of trustees. The first notification of any kind to external stakeholders – students, parents, alumni, recruits, and others – was made on the morning of July 8, 2020.

The Save Stanford Rowing campaign is launching to eliminate the financial impact of the Women’s Lightweight Rowing and Men’s Rowing programs on the Stanford University Athletics budget, and to ensure that the preliminary decision to eliminate varsity status is not made permanent. The organization, composed of more than 1,500 students, parents, alumni, and friends, is confident that it can assemble the funding required to adequately support both programs in a short period of time through both annual and endowment giving. The organization, and its campaign, also seek to productively engage with university leadership on a reasonable endowment target, perpetual varsity status for both programs, and a process for discontinuing any logistical actions set in motion by the July 8 letter.

These rowing programs make a significant contribution to the Stanford community that should be retained at the varsity level once financial considerations are addressed. The typical Stanford rower is a high achiever academically, maintaining an average GPA on par with other Stanford students, including non-athletes, even as they pursue a time-consuming practice and race schedule. In a world that has professionalized youth athletics, rowing is perhaps the only remaining sport where a college freshman novice can become an Olympian, with several Stanford student-athletes following that path. The Stanford Men’s team has sent seven athletes to the Olympics over the last 16 years; the most in the program’s history. In addition, the men’s team has contributed two-thirds of the African American men’s rowers in US Olympics history.

"Stanford Men's Rowing has a robust history of combining academic achievement with success in athletics, business, and beyond. Stanford rowers enrich the overall academic environment at Stanford, maintaining a team GPA that frequently exceeds that of the undergraduate student body overall. Stanford Men's Rowing also provides opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to join the team with no prior experience and develop into Olympians, a possibility matched by no other sport at Stanford. I look forward to constructive dialogue with the University about the future of the program.”, said Austin Hack, '14 BA, 9-time US National Team member and 2016 Olympian.

The Stanford Women’s Lightweight team has earned 9 of the last 10 national championships and has helped bring diversity to the Stanford Athletics program overall as well as to athletics across the community by founding Project SWEEP (Stanford Women’s Educational Erging Program) in 2014 which introduces disadvantaged youth from East Palo Alto, California to the sport of rowing. SWEEP provides weekly opportunities for these youth to pursue physical activity and gain mentorship from Stanford student athletes, while opening the door for their participation in high school rowing and improving their candidacy for collegiate scholarships. “Adding lightweight rowing was one of the most inclusive decisions Stanford Athletics made within the last few decades. It has generated opportunities for more diverse student athletes to excel from novice to Olympian and encouraged other universities to follow suit. In addition, Stanford’s commitment to excellence has led our team to bring home nine national championships to the University over the last decade. Our goals are to help grow lightweight women’s rowing nationwide and expand that inclusivity, while continuing to bring home titles.”, said Christine Cavallo, '17 BA, '21 MA, Three-Time World Record Setter, U.S. Junior, U23 and Senior National Team '12, '13, '14, '17, '18, '19.

Women’s Lightweight rowing is relatively new to college athletics, and the loss of the sport’s top team will undoubtedly lead to the cancellation of other programs. Maintaining varsity status for these programs will help the University continue to pursue its values of academic and athletic excellence, diversity, and equal opportunity, without a burden on its athletics budget. As club sports, Women’s Lightweight Rowing or Men’s Rowing, will no longer be permitted to compete in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships.


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Stanford Rowing has enriched the Stanford community since 1905. In over 100 years, our alumni have given back countless hours and love to the Stanford experience, and our goal is to continue to empower future classes of exceptional students and exceptional alumni.

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