An Advocacy for NCAA Funding

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With a 2015-2016 budget of $722 million, UC Santa Cruz administrators are too caught up in the $1 million it would take to fund athletics.

That’s 0.14 percent of university operating costs.

The most prevalent argument against funding athletics ridicules the small percentage of athletes at UCSC. The 270 student-athletes are 0.16 percent of the 17,280 student population — so yes, they are a small community. But proportionally, they are asking for less money from the university relative to their size.

All they’re asking for is $1 million annually for the absolute minimum when it comes to operation standard. The athletics department spends about $2 million per year on basic NCAA salary and operating costs, the lowest among all UCs. UCSD, the second lowest, spends about $9 million.

Illustration by Kaileen Smith.
Illustration by Kaileen Smith.

After pulling the NCAA athletics referendum off the 2016 spring elections ballot, administrators will offer an opinion poll for students from May 11-16. If it doesn’t accumulate more than 50 percent support, athletics will phase out by fall 2017.

Our administrators shouldn’t place athletics into the hands of the student body. It’s their obligation to either fund NCAA athletics or cut it. But they are hesitant because they don’t want to be known as the only administrators in UC history who cut athletics because of a measly $1 million expense.

Putting the state of athletics to an opinion poll is an easy way out. They know students will likely not fund anything with fee increases they don’t see as worth it, given the social climate toward athletics on this campus.

You don’t have to support UCSC’s NCAA athletics to understand that Chancellor George Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway are demonstrating a lapse in integrity by not making a firm decision. They are throwing around three different stances on athletics without any care for the implication it has on student-athletes, coaches, staff and recruits.

At this point, all I’m asking for is a little backbone.

In a February interview with Galloway, I asked her to confirm if UCSC would fund athletics through 2017-18. She said, “Yes, we’ve gone through two years of funding and now we will go through another two years.” To confirm that she wasn’t mistaken, I asked about the creation of the Special Committee on Athletics in Academic Senate, she said, “Now that we have an additional year we could actually give them a little more time.”

But on April 8 she went back on her word, announcing that the funding will be dictated by the opinion poll in the spring elections.

When asked about the differing statements, she said in an email — through the news and media director — that “the various outcomes make it a complex subject to talk about. I regret not being more clear and noting that the plans were not yet finalized and could continue to evolve.”

At any point Galloway could and should have disclosed that the decision was not finalized. She and Blumenthal are making the subject complicated when it’s simple — either continue funding a portion of the athletics program, which makes up 0.14 percent of the entire campus budget, or cut it.

The lack of transparency is misguiding people into believing athletics is going to stick around when in reality the administration doesn’t even understand the specifics of the funding they promised the department.

UCSC student-athletes are truly students first and athletes second. Unlike Division I athletes, Division III student-athletes are subject to the same admission standards, academic requirements and support services as the general student body. Division III athletes don’t earn scholarships, nor do they get any special treatment from their professors or advisors. UCSC athletics have had a 100 percent retention rate over the past four years with an average GPA of 3.3. They belong here just as much as the next student.

“Well, if they are really interested in sports they could go to another school” — yes, this is true. But they could not get a UC education combined with Division III competition anywhere else in the state.

Let’s turn to Lauren, an NCAA recruit who attended the admitted students reception at UCSC on April 3. There, Blumenthal was asked about the state of athletics.

She said, “He answered, ‘This is going up to a vote, but we hope to progress the athletics program and a movement to Division II.’”

Division II? At this point the most realistic option is reducing the amount of sports the campus offers.

We have Galloway on one hand fixated on May’s opinion poll to determine the future of athletics, while Blumenthal is telling high school seniors UCSC will soon compete at Division II. It’s clear they’re not on the same page about the state of athletics on this campus.

If Lauren chooses UCSC by the May 1 deadline, she would pursue a major in bioinformatics. She is drawn to UCSC as a leader in research, but she is repelled by the chaos that UCSC administration creates by promising funding, putting it on the students to vote, taking the funding back and creating a false perception of a Division II advancement.

I don’t blame her for her hesitation. Blumenthal and Galloway need to take responsibility for their false promises, clashing public comments and the current perception of UCSC athletics. They need to stay consistent. So far, I’ve seen anything but that.