by Rachel Swan
The Cal baseball team got a new lease on life today, after donors amassed a total of $9 million and presented it to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. The fund raisers fell just a hair short of their $10 million goal, but given all the heightened enthusiasm — and a precipitous increase in pledges over the last few days — they're expected to hit that target in short order. That bodes for men's gymnastics, another sport that went on the chopping block last September, in the wake of university budget cuts. UC Berkeley officials also planned to move rugby to a different sports tier, where it would be less of a drain on the athetics department budget. As we reported last July, most Cal sports programs lose money; the notable exceptions are football and basketball, which sell tickets, spur alumni donations, and generate television contracts. That said, even the doomed sports programs may survive with the help of donor largesse. As Herb Benenson reported for UC Berkeley News, the athletics program is on its way to becoming financially solvent — or at least remain viable after 2014, when the university will start capping institutional athletic support at $5 million a year.