SALT LAKE CITY — In an open letter to its college community and athletics family that included “some extremely difficult news,” Stanford announced a massive reduction in the number of intercollegiate sports it will field in coming years because of financial challenges.

In all, the Cardinal will cut 11 sports programs from their 36 Division I varsity teams after the 2020-21 academic year.

The discontinued varsity sports programs include: 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 teams will have a chance to transition to club status after this school year.

“All of these teams will have the opportunity to compete in their upcoming 2020-21 seasons, should the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 allow it, before they are discontinued at the varsity level. Regretfully, 20 of our support staff positions are being eliminated as part of this realignment,” the letter stated.

“This is heartbreaking news to share. These 11 programs consist of more than 240 incredible student-athletes and 22 dedicated coaches. They were built by more than 4,000 alumni whose contributions led to 20 national championships, 27 Olympic medals, and an untold number of academic and professional achievements. Each of the individuals associated with these programs will forever have a place in Stanford’s history.”

Stanford said it will honor existing athletic scholarship commitments if student-athletes from those sports choose to finish their undergraduate work at “The Farm.” Support will be offered to student-athletes who choose to transfer. The contracts of affected coaches will also be honored, while support staff will receive severance pay.

The university first delivered the news to its athletic program and teams via a Zoom video conference on Wednesday morning.

The open letter listed details about why the 11 selected sports were chosen, including the fact that the average Division I athletic program only sponsors an average of 18 varsity sports. Stanford will still have 25 after the cuts.