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The Athletic: Inside the battle for Stanford Olympic sports

There are smiling faces purposefully placed all around Maples Pavilion. They are cardboard cutouts of fans, faculty and administration. They are put there to make the athletes feel something. To see something other than vacant seats or tarps that make a barren arena seem less empty. That’s as close to real fandom as it gets right now in Palo Alto, Calif., due to the coronavirus pandemic. But when the Stanford men’s volleyball team started warming up for its last-minute doubleheader against No. 6 Pepperdine last week, the players noticed some cutouts that they couldn’t seem to shake.

Between the blocks at the net and the spikes driven into the hardwood prior to the match start, they’d look over at a trio of cardboard cutouts, all of whom have played a direct role in the discontinuation of one of the most-decorated volleyball programs in collegiate athletics. Hunter Dickey, a junior from Huntington Beach, Calif., said seeing the smiling faces of Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne, provost Persis Drell and athletic director Bernard Muir left him “emotionally drained” after the matches.

“To play in front of people who are cutting you, it just breaks my heart,” said Dickey, a recent junior college transfer, who was accepted into Stanford last spring. “It’s like … the people who don’t want you here. It’s the weirdest dichotomy to have.”

Read more from Christopher Kamrani at The Athletic here.