Women’s rowing program discontinued due to financial impacts, gender equity

San+Diego+State+women%27s+rowing+practices+in+the+fog+in+Mission+Bay.

Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

San Diego State women’s rowing practices in the fog in Mission Bay.

by Kyle Betz, Sports Editor

Earlier this summer, San Diego State women’s rowing head coach Bill Zack said the program is aiming for its best-ever finish in conference competition.

“We would like to target medals in all of our events, which would be the best conference finish we’ve ever had,” Zack told senior staff writer Breven Honda in a Q&A interview.

Now, the program will be discontinued following the 2020-21 academic year, according to an open letter penned by university President Adela de la Torre and athletic director JD Wicker on Nov. 20.

“The tremendous financial impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as long-term financial planning have contributed to this outcome,” the letter stated.

The decision comes in light of SDSU Athletics announcing a 25% reduction in costs this year.

In addition to financial stability, another reason for the stoppage is gender equity.

“The need to realign the student-athlete population to more closely resemble the overall institution gender composition was a leading factor,” according to the question and answers portion of the open letter. “To provide the necessary level of support and the quality experience student-athletes have enjoyed at SDSU, it is essential that we right size our sport profile.”

Gender equity in athletics, according to the letter, also aligns with the general consensus of SDSU’s undergraduate population.

“To be in compliance with Title XI proportionality, we must bring the men’s and women’s roster sizes more in line with the demographics of SDSU’s undergraduate enrollment,” the letter said. “Adding a men’s sport of the size needed is not a financial option. Investing in women’s sports will remain a priority.”

The decision affects “approximately 50 student-athletes who are on the roster this year.”

The 2020-21 season is expected to begin in the spring, but the decision was made now in order to allow “student-athletes time to make decisions with their families about their future at SDSU, and whether they would like assistance in the transfer process or wish to continue their academic pursuits at SDSU.”

All women’s rowing student-athletes will have their scholarships honored through their respective graduation dates. The athletic department will also fulfill coaching contractual agreements through the end of appropriate tenures.

De la Torre and Wicker also addressed the possibility of donors fundraising enough to keep the program.

“Financial support to fund this program cannot address SDSU’s broader equity compliance obligations,” the open letter said. “Donor gifts will also be used to continue this high level of support for the remaining 18 sports that SDSU Athletics sponsors.”

SDSU women’s rowing program was founded in 1998 and has an alumni network of nearly 500 student-athletes.

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