Stanford to end men’s volleyball program following 2021 season

Photo courtesy of Stanford athletics

Two NCAA championships and 18 All-American selections was not enough to save the Stanford men’s volleyball from elimination.

The Stanford athletics department announced Wednesday that it would disband its men’s volleyball program along with 10 other sports at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

In an open letter to the Stanford community, the Stanford president, provost and athletics director stated the discussion was made “to confront the [department’s] financial challenge before it worsened.”

The athletics department before the coronavirus pandemic was projected to experience more than a $12 million deficit during the upcoming fiscal year. The pandemic and the current recession resulted in that deficit expanding to $25 million this school year and $70 million by 2024, according to the open letter.

The cost to have men’s volleyball and other 10 effected sports compete at a nationally competitive level, per the athletics department’s projections, would cost more than $200 million.

Stanford’s decision regarding which of its 36 teams to eliminate was based on a set of criteria that include financial components. Also in the criteria was the success of the sport, Title IX implications, national interest in the sport and the amount of schools at the NCAA Division I level that sponsor the sport.

The university leaders noted in the letter that less than 9 percent of NCAA Division I schools sponsor men’s volleyball.

Division I and Division II men’s volleyball teams currently compete for the same NCAA championship. There are currently slated to be more than 50 NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams within the next two years.

The Cardinal won the national championship in 1997 and 2010 and has reached the NCAA Tournament finals five times. In addition, Stanford throughout its program history has been ranked in the top five of the national coaches poll 205 times.

Along with its team success, Stanford has produced 11 players who later played from the United States in the Olympics.

Stanford coaches and players were informed Wednesday of the university’s decision via a televideo conference.

The Cardinal under coach John Kosty opened the 2020 season at No. 7 in the national rankings but was 6-11 at the time the season was canceled because of the pandemic.

Kosty in 14 seasons with the Cardinal has accumulated a 214-170 career record and was named the 2010 National Coach of the Year. That 2010 season completed a turnaround for the program that saw it go 3-25 in 2007 during Kosty’s first season and then win the national title three years later.

Stanford is the first NCAA Division I school to cut its men’s volleyball program since Pacific at the conclusion of the 2014 season.

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