After a long day of matches at a tournament in Los Angeles, members of the UC Santa Cruz men’s tennis team return to their hotel to relax. Well actually, they return to their former teammate’s house, which is where they’re staying in order to cut back on travel costs.
Strategies to cut costs aren’t unusual for NCAA teams at UCSC. The cross-country and track and field teams share uniforms. The men’s volleyball team often travels across the country for several days at a time, sacrificing schoolwork to play as many games as possible in one trip.
Despite the passing of Measure 68 last spring, which implemented a $38.50 per quarter student fee to keep NCAA teams on campus, athletic department funding efforts this year are prioritizing filling new administrative positions over providing additional funds for the 15 intercollegiate teams
Although Measure 68 funding will not begin until next year, the chancellor is providing $1 million for the athletic department this year.
“A lot of promises were made, a lot of things were said. We definitely caught the university off guard I think by winning this [measure],” said Kayla McCord, co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and junior women’s soccer player. “I don’t know if our chancellor really thought that we were going to win. But we did and we’re here to stay and we proved that the campus community does value [athletics] enough to pass this referendum.”
Since Measure 68 passed, the university and athletic department have strategized ways to combat financial deficits. The fiscal year 2017 breakdown estimates a $507,297 budget deficit for intercollegiate athletics. A driving force of the deficit, in addition to salaries and benefits for coaches and trainers, is team travel costs, which totaled over $350,000 for this fiscal year. In response, the administration created a new business model aimed at reducing the deficit.
As part of the new business model, all NCAA teams are now sponsored by Under Armour. The new model states the “new Under Armour outfitter agreement will generate an estimated $50,000 in [supply and expense] savings yearly for a period of five years.”
Another result of the new business model is three additional administrative positions. There will be a new associate director for compliance and eligibility; an assistant athletics director of sports information, marketing and communication; and an assistant athletics director of game management and sports operations. UCSC also lacks a permanent athletics director, another position which should be filled by early January.
The administrative positions are intended to promote the long-term growth of the athletic department at UCSC.
“We have amazing student athletes, but we have a lot of work to do in order to strengthen the department overall and ensure it has the people in place to support its success,” said Vice Chancellor of Business and Administrative Services Sarah Latham in an email.
Salaries for the three new positions are projected to fall between a base annual salary of $45,800 and a maximum of $79,800. In contrast, the average salary for a head coach at UCSC is about $36,000. Meanwhile, assistant coaches’ contracts were cut from nine months to six.
When asked about the funding priorities of the athletic department administration, interim athletic director Greg Warzecka said the primary goal is to stabilize the 15 intercollegiate teams and head and assistant coaches’ salaries. Warzecka said the four positions will “create great stability in this department and in [the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports] (OPERS) to fully and effectively support student athletes.”
As of now, Warzecka and Latham have been unable to address questions about the specific division of the OPERS budget. This is because Warzecka has spent little time at UCSC and Latham only recently became closely involved with the athletics budget due to departmental restructuring.
However, Warzecka said a major source of funding for NCAA sports teams on campus is fundraising.
“It’s really impressive that most teams have really just in the past survived off of the meager funds from that fundraising, so this year I’m kind of curious to see what we do,” said Kayla McCord, co-president of the SAAC.
Coaches and athletes are aware of the need to fundraise to supplement their budgets. Still, some student athletes are frustrated by the lack of consistency and transparency within the OPERS administration.
“My main concern is that I don’t really know where the money is going and I’d like to see a clear layout of how the budget is being divided up,” said Chad Stone, co-president of SAAC and co-captain of the men’s tennis team.
With the passing of Measure 68, Stone expected to see more information about the financial resources of the athletic department. But even so, he hasn’t received many budget details, such as specific fund allocations, despite being co-president of SAAC.
For coaches, fundraising is a major focus. Coaches have to bear the burden of fundraising money to support their teams in addition to planning their seasons and coaching. Head coaches have led camps, clinics and other fundraising endeavors to generate about $250,000 a year for the NCAA sports at UCSC.
“We are always looking at ways to generate more income. […] Finding different ways to fundraise are definitely things I need to look into if I want to increase our travel budget,” said cross-country and track and field coach David Klech.
Some student athletes expect to see more administrative support since Measure 68 passed. The measure demonstrated that students value athletics on campus. There is now an expectation for the administration to take substantial efforts to support NCAA teams as well.
“It’s important that the university realizes that [we] as student athletes are not content to remain where we are,” Kayla McCord said. “We want our athletic program to grow and blossom because we’re [the program]. We’re representing our campus and we want them to be proud to say that ‘I’m a slug.’ We want to define what school spirit is at [UC] Santa Cruz.”