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Stanford Olympians Call for Return of 11 Cut Sports

Paul Steinbach

Fencer Alexander Massialas and water polo great Maggie Steffens said during the virtual Olympic media summit Thursday that their alma mater, Stanford, can become a national model if it reinstates sports — 11, in the case of the Cardinal — eliminated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Stanford cuts were particularly stunning in their depth, given the longstanding school's reputation for broad sports offerings and on-field success.

“Stanford sets an example amongst all the other NCAA schools as to how to have successful programs while also maintaining academic and athletic excellence across every single sport,” said Massialas, a two-time Olympic medalist in foil, as reported by The Mercury News of San Jose. “Right now it is extremely dire. Everyone should acknowledge the current NCAA model is broken.”

Massialas was a three-time All-American at Stanford who graduated in 2016 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He is scheduled to compete at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in July.

Last July, Stanford announced that sports playing their last seasons in 2020-21 included 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. The 11 sports scheduled for elimination have won a total of 20 national championships and 27 Olympic medals, according to a Stanford letter to its community.

]Although water polo is not one of the sports targeted for elimination, Steffens, 27, expressed concerns about the cuts.

“It’s not always about what makes the most money or what gets put on TV,” said Steffens, a two-time gold medalist. “That’s what makes the Olympics so amazing; we get to showcase what we do. We get to showcase our passion.”

Steffens, who won three NCAA titles at Stanford, said collegiate sports promote the health of the Olympic programs. “Because they’re not on TV or famous or making as much money doesn’t mean the effort and years aren’t the same,” said Steffens, considered one of the world’s best players heading into the Tokyo Games.

Massialas and Steffens are among the 3,360 supporters to sign a petition asking university officials to reconsider their decision. The lobbying effort, called 36SportsStrong, seeks to stop the sports from being cut. The 36 represents the number of sports Stanford has been fielding, which is more than double the national average.

In the past year, 352 NCAA programs — mostly Olympic sports — have been cut by schools nationwide.

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