UCSC Administrators Pull NCAA Referendum Proposal off 2016 Spring Ballot

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Illustration by Celia Fong.
Illustration by Celia Fong.

With less than four months until campus elections, the UC Santa Cruz administration pulled the proposed NCAA referendum models off the spring voting ballot.

This spring, students will not vote on the fate of NCAA athletics. The per student, per quarter fee previously planned for this year ranged from $72.75 to $81.75, significantly less than last year’s proposed fee of $117. Instead, an opinion poll will replace the traditional student vote format. The poll will ask students about athletics and NCAA funding, said Scott Hernandez-Jason, director of news and media relations, in an email.

“We don’t know what’s going on in the administration’s mind. We hadn’t even decided on the language for the referendum yet,” said Kim Musch, head coach of the swim and dive team. “To have this pulled and say, ‘No, we aren’t going to allow the students to vote’ is perplexing.”

UCSC administration agreed to provide NCAA athletics with $1 million annually between 2013-17 to give the department time to find alternative funding, but Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway stated she was “reluctant to commit any permanent funds that could support the broader academic mission to a relatively small program” after that period. About 200 students participate on 14 NCAA teams.

Administrators decided it was up to the students to decide whether they want to fund athletics.

When asked why the student vote was changed to an opinion poll, Hernandez-Jason said, “It’s my understanding that there will be other fee proposals on that ballot and the campus leaders wanted more insight into student perspectives.”

Last spring, the UCSC athletic department proposed the Athletics Operations Enhancement Fee that asked students to approve a $117 per student, per quarter fee to fund NCAA athletics. This fee did not pass and has forced the athletic department and its alumni to expand awareness beyond UCSC and its administration, who are hesitant to fund NCAA athletics after 2017.

“I can’t tell you how many alumni have contacted me and asked, ‘What can we do?’” Musch said. “They’ve stopped writing letters to our campus, they’re going above [UCSC administration] because they aren’t getting any response. They’re contacting regents, [UC] Office of the President, senators and assembly members.”

This year, the three referendum proposals included a new initiative — a move from NCAA Division III to Division II. Musch believes there is a strong chance that this caught the administration off guard.

“If students vote to go to Division II, it means a lot more commitment from the university,” Musch said. “They will have to work with admissions because we will start offering scholarships. Then the university has to get involved with athletics, and right now there is no involvement at any level. They have never been involved in it.”

Hernandez-Jason said there will be no major changes to athletic funding this year.