Shock and jubilation rushed across amateur wrestling social media accounts on Tuesday afternoon: In a stunning reversal, Stanford University announced that the university would not be dropping the 11 intercollegiate Olympic sports that faced termination after the school year. In recent weeks, University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne met with the 36 Sports Strong alumni group. 36 Strong mobilized external pressure upon the University to reconsider its July 2020 decision to eliminate the programs.
The group targeted Cardinal Athletic Director Bernard Muir, who announced the decision last summer, blaming budget shortfalls and “competitive excellence” as justification. 36 Strong immediately brought Muir’s budget under scrutiny, citing incorrect figures in determining operating costs and expenditures. 36 Strong also showed the massive uptick in administrative spending under Muir.
Bolstered by an improved financial picture with increased fundraising potential, Stanford will continue 11 varsity sports that had been slated for discontinuation at the end of this academic year.#GoStanfordhttps://t.co/9vrbGfjs0e
— Stanford Athletics (@GoStanford) May 18, 2021
Upon the announcement last spring, Stanford Wrestling created its own multi-million-dollar endowment to fund the program without using University funds for a decade. The Stanford Wrestling plan would also allocate funds to build a Cardinal Women’s Wrestling program to help meet the University’s Title IX requirements. Muir ignored the wrestling team’s strategy and independent fundraising efforts, choosing to focus on the program’s lack of “competitive excellence.” The Stanford Wrestling program answered back with one’s its most impressive seasons in years. The team made national headlines when they showed up in St. Louis wearing black singlets without Stanford colors or logos. ESPN picked up the story when Shane Griffith won an NCAA Championship at 165 lbs. while the crowd chanted, “Keep Stanford Wrestling.”
Mounting pressure from 36 Strong and the release of a Netflix documentary implicated Muir’s knowledge in Varsity Blues ringleader Rick Singer’s bribery scandal. Pres. Tessier-Lavigne conducted a positive meeting with representatives from the dropped athletic programs and 36 Strong in April. Sources within the Cardinal Wrestling program feared the meeting would just be a political tactic. However, in the weeks following, the attitude in the athletic department began to shift, signaling the potential decision.
Though the Stanford program was saved, it will move forward without head coach Jason Borrelli who took the head coaching job at American University last month. Borrelli oversaw the revitalization of the Cardinal program, earning its first NCAA finalist since 2004 and its second NCAA Champion. However, Borrelli needed to take care of his family with an uncertain future and take the American position. Sources say current Stanford assistants Alex Tirapelle and Ray Blake will fill head coaching responsibilities until a final decision is made.
For the first time in almost a year, the mood in Palo Alto is positive and anticipating the future.