Two weeks after Fresno State announced the elimination of its 33-year-old men's soccer program, Coach Dave Chesler is hopeful that his team's ambitious fund-raising drive will lead to reinstatement.
''There is more than hope, but we still have an incredible fund-raising challenge,'' says Chesler.
Chesler says he was told by the university on April 23 that his program, which was dropped along with men's cross country, men's indoor track and field and women's swimming, would earn a reprieve if it could raise $340,000 by May 1.
The men's soccer program has created the Valley Soccer Foundation (www.valleysoccer.com) to raise funds for the reprieve and future fund-raising for the program and Central Valley soccer organizations.
Chesler said that one-third of the cash funds needed to save the program have been raised, in addition to pledges to support the program in the future. A ''S.O.S. Bulldog Playday'' last Saturday produced $31,000 in cash donations and pledges of $55,000 for each of the next five years.
Cash donations were at $115,000 as of Monday.
Chesler, who has been on the athletic department's gender equity committee since arriving at the FSU campus in 1997, says that Fresno State can keep men's soccer and still meet Title IX requirements -- even if women's swimming is not reinstated. The second prong of Title IX's three-prong test for compliance is showing a history of adding women's sports, which Fresno State has. Its latest addition is women's golf.
The first prong is proportionality. That's where FSU, with a student body that is 59 percent female, has slipped.
''Our program has been one of the most cost-effective on campus,'' Chesler says. ''We have been cutting our budget every year and we generate $60,000 to $70,000 in revenue.''
Chesler's team is also one of the most ethnically diverse squads on campus, reflecting the population of the California Central Valley with a roster that is 40 percent Hispanic, in addition to players of Portuguese and Asian decent.
Fresno State's athletic department will have a $600,000 deficit in 2002, the eighth straight year of losses. All California state universities have been hit hard by the state's budget crisis.