Citing the economic downturn and decreased state funding, the University of California announced Tuesday that it will eliminate four varsity sports programs — including baseball — at the end of the 2011 academic year.
Men's and women's gymnastics and women's lacrosse also will be cut, and the men's rugby team will be reduced to a club sport.
"Clearly, this is a painful outcome after months of deliberation, analysis, and the examination of every viable alternative," Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said in a statement released by the university. "I deeply regret the impact this will have on so many valued members of our community."
The athletic department has been over budget by $10 million to $13 million for several years, prompting a year-long process that evaluated teams based on cost, student diversity, impact on donations and compliance with Title IX.
The decision affects 13 full-time coaches and 163 of the school's 814 athletes. It also reduces the number of athletic teams from 29 to 24.
The school said it would honor current athletic scholarships and assist athletes who wish to transfer. The athletes will be immediately eligible to compete, as per NCAA rules, given that their teams were terminated.
The cuts are expected to result in an annual savings of $4 million beginning in the next fiscal year.
Pacific 10 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement that Tuesday's announcement highlights the financial pressures at schools and "reinforces the importance for our conference to continue an aggressive effort to increase support and opportunities for our schools and student-athletes in the future."
Cal's baseball team, founded in 1892, earned an NCAA regional berth last season. It has won two national titles and made five trips to the College World Series.
Devin Rodriguez, a sophomore first baseman who played at Newhall Hart High, said most of the players have committed to play a final season for Cal next spring, and will use the decision as motivation.
"We talked about it as a team: Just go out with a bang, prove them wrong for cutting the program," Rodriguez said.
The men's rugby team had won 25 national championships since 1980.