Stanford Cutting 11 Sports After 2020-21 Year, Including Synchronized Swimming

Stanford Fans Pac 12 championships
Stanford supporters will not be able to cheer on synchronized swimming as the sport will be discontinued after this coming school year. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Stanford University announced it will discontinue 11 varsity sports after the 2020-21 school year with synchronized swimming being one of the aquatic sports victimized by the COVID-19 pandemic. In an open letter sent out by the university, the university will discontinue men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling. All of these teams will have the opportunity to compete in their upcoming 2020-21 seasons, should the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 allow it, before they are discontinued at the varsity level.

Twenty support staff positions are being eliminated as part of this realignment. More than 240 student-athletes have been affected, as the impacted sports will be moved to the club level after their upcoming varsity seasons are complete, assuming there is sufficient student interest in continuing.

“We will do everything we can to support the student-athletes, coaches and support staff members affected by this decision,” the letter said. “We will honor all existing athletics scholarship commitments to the student-athletes throughout their undergraduate experiences at Stanford, and we hope they choose to remain on The Farm and earn their Stanford degrees. Should any student choose to continue their collegiate athletics career elsewhere, however, we will support them in every way possible. The contracts of affected coaches will be honored, and any support staff whose employment is ending will be provided with severance pay.”

Stanford University supported 36 varsity sports, the most in the country, while the average Division I university sponsored 18. The school decided to confront the financial challenges before they worsened, and wanted to exhaust all alternatives before making any profound changes. The leaders came to the conclusion to discontinue 11 varsity sports, and wanted to provide enough reaction time for those affected and to give them as much flexibility and choice as possible.

The uncertainty of the future of college sports continues at schools all across the country – from as big as Stanford, to Division III schools like Williams. Schools everywhere have begun to make budget cuts to curtail the loss of money brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Swim teams at East Carolina, Connecticut, Boise State, and UMass Dartmouth have been eliminated, and an uneasy feeling has set in for non-revenue sports at universities around the nation.

Of the 11 sports cut at Stanford, six of them (including synchronized swimming) are not NCAA-sponsored championship sports. Nine of the sports, including synchro, are sponsored by less than 9 percent of schools in the NCAA.

Four-year colleges have eliminated some 171 athletic teams because of budgetary cuts or school closures associated with the coronavirus pandemic (51 in Division I, 56 in Division II, 52 in Division III and 12 in NAIA). The list of aquatic sports dropped, based on research by the Associated Press, through July 8 (x-denotes school closure; y-effective in 2021):


  • Men’s swimming (3): y-Connecticut, East Carolina, Western Illinois.
  • Synchronized swimming (1): y-Stanford.
  • Women’s swimming (3): Boise State, East Carolina, Western Illinois.


  • Men’s swimming/diving (2): Tiffin, x-Urbana.
  • Women’s swimming/diving (2): Tiffin, x-Urbana.
  • Women’s water polo (1): Sonoma State.


  • Men’s swimming (1): UMass-Dartmouth.
    Women’s swimming (1): UMass-Dartmouth.

More to come …

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Ja Bounce
3 years ago


Steven Greseth
3 years ago

Western Illinois did not cut swimming. They suspended the sport for 1 year. A working group has been formed to to help the WKU administration make better decisions.

Scott Reese
3 years ago

Makes sense. How could a nearly $30b endowment possibly support those 11 sports?

Heidi Hohler
3 years ago

My daughter’s school of choice, with big hopes to swim for Stanford. Let’s hope we are back to normal sooner than later.

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