Ducks resuscitating baseball after 26-year hiatus

EUGENE, Ore. -- After a 26-year absence, the University of Oregon will bring back baseball for the 2008-09 season.

The Ducks also plan to discontinue their wrestling program following the 2007-08 season and add varsity women's competitive cheer, Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny announced Friday.

The Ducks are the only Pac-10 school without a baseball team. Oregon last fielded a team in the 1980-81 season, but the next season it was relegated to club sport because of budget constraints.

"The first intercollegiate sporting event played on the University of Oregon campus was a baseball game back in 1877, just one year after the UO was established," school president Dave Frohnmayer said. "It is especially fitting that Pat has decided to bring baseball back to the University of Oregon on the 130th anniversary of that first game."

The Ducks made it to the College World Series in 1954 but were eliminated after losses to Arizona and Massachusetts.

Kilkenny said the university wasn't swayed by Oregon State's back-to-back College World Series championships and the excitement that Beaver baseball generated in the state.

"It's great for the state of Oregon, it seems like they're really good kids, Coach Casey seems like he represents the state admirably. But everything that we do, we're not going to do if we don't feel like we can be excellent at it. Secondly, we take a very
long-term view of what it is we're going to do," he said at an afternoon news conference.

Oregon played at Howe Field, built in 1936. The ballpark was converted in 1987 to accommodate the softball team.

It has not yet been determined where the Ducks will play.

Kilkenny hopes to have a staff in place by this fall.

The contracts of wrestling coach Chuck Kearney, and assistants Rick Stewart and Jason Powell, will be honored through June 30, 2008. Seventeen wrestlers expected to be on scholarship have been given several options to transfer.

"This is a time of mixed emotions for both myself and the University of Oregon," Kilkenny said. "I am obviously excited about the opportunity to return a piece of the proud tradition of intercollegiate athletics back to the university, as well as provide more opportunities for women in a sport that has demonstrated remarkable growth at the collegiate and high school levels. At the same time, it is unfortunate we are unable to be all things to all people."

Oregon plans to begin competition in competitive cheer in 2008-09. The team will be separate from the spirit squad that performs at football and basketball games.

"We looked at a variety of emerging sports ... and competitive cheer is a sport that is growing very fast, 4 million participants throughout the United States," said Renee Baumgartner, a senior associate athletic director for the university. "As we looked at
facilities and as we looked at locker rooms and looked at a competitive schedule, it came down to we're going to be different, we're going to be innovative and out front."

The financial impact of the athletic reorganization was estimated to add $300,000 to the 2007-08 budget, the university said.