In September, the University of California-Berkeley announced that, due to financial constraints, it was cutting five sports from its athletic department, including varsity baseball.
Over the following six months, the baseball program continued amongst uncertainty if fund-raising efforts would meet a lofty goal to save the program and bring it back for a 2012 season.
The Golden Bears baseball team reported Friday afternoon for what was supposed to be a routine scouting meeting to discuss its opponent, the Arizona Wildcats.
Rather than discussing pitching and hitting strategies, the Bears coaching staff announced to its players that the university was reinstating the baseball program thanks to $9 million in donations.
"They let out with a loud ovation," Bears head coach David Esquer told the San Francisco Chronicle's Tom FitzGerald.
The Bears entered the weekend series against Arizona with a 19-7 record, good enough to be ranked 13th in the nation. The Bears dropped two of three games this weekend to Arizona to give them an overall record of 20-9.
Former Golden Bear pitcher Stu Gordan led the fund-raising efforts with a personal donation of $550,000. Gordon, a San Francisco attorney, helped coordinate the donations of more than 1,000 patrons.
Among other prominent baseball figures, Cal received a $100,000 donation from former Major League MVP Jeff Kent and $50,000 from super-agent Scott Boras.
The original amount necessary to earn reinstatement of the baseball program was set at $10 million. With the late-signing period for high school seniors approaching this Wednesday, the university decided to accept the $9 million already raised, confident the program would raise the final million dollars originally requested.
"With the new admits needing to make a decision whether or not they want to come to Cal to play baseball, in fairness, we just stayed at the $9 million level," Chancellor Robert Birgeneau told The San Jose Mercury News' Jonathon Okanes. "We also really appreciated the effort that Stu Gordon had launched and we felt in fairness to him we should respect his phenomenal contribution to it. I have absolute confidence we can get to the $10 million dollar mark."
The Golden Bears were unable to sign any players during the early NCAA signing period, making it especially important that they were able to recruit players prior to this Wednesday's deadline.
Esquer says he is proud of his current players for staying loyal to the program this season.
"Our players were committed to seeing this thing through," Esquer told Okanes. "I'm so proud of all of them that have stayed."
The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that boosters intend to continue fund-raising to help the future stability of the baseball program and keep it clear of future budgetary cuts.
Stu Gordan told BerkeleySide.com's Lance Knobel, "It’s still our goal to get up to a $20 million endowment so Cal baseball can be self-supporting."