Brown University announced Thursday that it will reduce its number of varsity sports programs from 38 to 29 with 11 programs transitioning to club status effective for the 2020-21 academic year.
Yet university president Christina Paxson and athletic director Jack Hayes confirmed in a webinar that the Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative is not about budget cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The main goals of the initiative, which follows an external review of Brown athletics for the 2018-19 academic year, is to improve the overall competitiveness of both varsity and club athletics while continuing to provide gender equity under Title IX.
“This initiative is not just about taking one step, but rather a core set of actions which, together, will set Brown on a positive path toward building a varsity athletics program for women and men that could be among the most competitive among Brown's peers in 10 years,” said Paxson.
Paxson cited data from the review found that from 2008 to 2018, Brown secured a league-low 2.8 percent of Ivy League titles.
Club coed sailing and women's sailing will transition from club to varsity, while men's and women's fencing, men's and women's golf, women's skiing, men's and women's squash, women's equestrian, and men's track, field, and cross country will transition from varsity to club.
The revised roster of teams was determined after the external review assessed the existing strengths of each team, current roster sizes, quality of facilities, and geographic considerations, which Paxson used as an example for why women's sailing is transitioning to varsity and women's skiing is transitioning to club.
Hayes broke the news to the approximately incoming and returning 150 student-athletes and seven coaches affected by the transition in a webinar at 1 p.m. Thursday. While he recognized that there was no ideal time to deliver this difficult news, Hayes asserted that the timing of the university's announcement was influenced by the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“There's so much uncertainty with what will happen with this coming academic year and with sports in the fall,” said Hayes. “The timing made sense to communicate so that all students, both incoming and returning, would have as much information as possible”
“We know there is disappointment whenever a college sports program reduces its roster of varsity teams. We will work closely with students to help them consider their options, and academic support services will be available to all returning student-athletes and incoming recruited students.”
According to Hayes, reducing the overall number of varsity teams should directly benefit the university’s more successful programs. Examples include the women’s soccer program, which earned an NCAA tournament berth this fall, and the men’s basketball team, which won its final two games before junior Tamenang Choh (from Lowell) declared for the NBA draft.