By Justin Bervovich
The UC Santa Cruz athletic department, known for its ability to fundraise nearly its entire budget, has been dealt a serious blow. Funds are running low, a reality that may eventually require athletes to pay in order to play. To stay afloat, the department is heavily relying on next month’s sports referendum.
The athletic budget for the 2006-2007 school year is projected to be approximately $740,000. This figure includes equipment, uniforms, travel, and the price of hiring referees. Part of that budget is $140,000 that the chancellor gave the department as part of a matching funds program. Next year, however, that money may not be provided.
Chancellor Greenwood started the matching funds program in 2001. Through the program, the university matches any funds raised by the Athletic Department, up to $140,000.
Although it was set to expire in 2006, Chancellor Denton chose to extend the program for one more year. However, as the program reaches its expiration once again, the chancellor’s funds are drying up, leaving little or no money to support athletics.
The athletic department faces a bleak financial situation to begin with. They operate with a budget half the size of an average Division III school, and it only employs one full-time administrator, compared to other DIII schools, which employ at least five.
Even though the chancellor’s fund is dwindling, Ryan Andrews, Executive Director of the Office of Physical Education, Recreation, and Sports (OPERS), said, “We are going to go back to the chancellor to ask for it to be extended again because our program really can’t survive without it.”
Of the $740,000 annual budget, athletics only receives about $275,000 in permanent funding, guaranteed by the university. They get approximately $150,000 in OPERS revenue, which includes renting out facilities during the summer, but that amount varies each year. The chancellor’s match is the only other money that the department has; the rest has to be fundraised.
Women’s soccer player Morgan McCarthy, who also serves as co-vice president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC), feels that the effort needed for fundraising distracts players from playing their sport.
“I would say that we spend a good month of the soccer season really focusing on fundraising,” McCarthy said.
Men’s soccer coach Dan Chamberlain also sees problems with the need for this level of fundraising. This year, his team had a budget slightly over $30,000. The school gave the team $2,000 in permanent funds, and it received $8,000 in matching funds, by leaving the team to raise more than $20,000.
“We are relying on people’s generosity, which is a great thing, but not a source of income that you can count on every single year,” Chamberlain said.
If the matching funds are not renewed, the team will have an additional $8,000 to raise. The team already receives large donations from athletes’ families, which is something that Chamberlain would like to get away from in the future. But given the team’s current financial situation, players will take contributions any way they can.
“Everyone fundraises,” Chamberlain continued. “No matter how much money the school gives you, you can always do better. The difference [at UCSC] is that there is a minimum level of support. The budget that they give us wouldn’t pay for one road trip.”
Aside from the matching funds, no team receives more than $3,000 in permanent funding. The men’s volleyball team, which was almost cut before the 2006 season, does not receive any permanent funding; players are forced to raise everything.
Everything from the booster club to the upcoming Rita Walker Scramble—a golf tournament that benefits women’s athletics—has been organized to help fill these financial gaps. But teams can only do so much, and the NCAA teams at UCSC remain drastically under-funded.
“Imagine that you go to a class and you don’t have enough chairs to go around,” men’s volleyball coach Jonah Carson said. “Every student needs chairs in the classroom, and we need balls at practice.”
McCarthy, along with the rest of the department, worries that the athletics program might be forced to take drastic steps in order to survive.
“We realize that if we don’t get the money soon, we are going to have to cut programs, and we are going to have to cut travel,” McCarthy said. “The money can’t get much thinner for us.”
Fortunately for the department, there is hope: the referendum.
If Measure 31 passes in next month’s student elections, each student would pay five dollars per quarter, to go to athletics.
“I don’t know how much longer we could survive without the referendum,” Carson said. “At some point, everyone’s goal is to grow. As an athletic department, we are going to be limited because of how much financial support we receive.”
A similar referendum on last year’s ballot did not pass. Some people within the department, such as women’s cross country coach Adam Boothe, believe that it was because athletics on campus are stereotyped.
“You should hear the things people say about athletics that are completely untrue,” Boothe explained. “We don’t fly first class, coaches don’t get huge salaries, and the students don’t get anything above and beyond what a typical UCSC student gets. It’s not some elitists club or something.”
Cross country runner Tamara Torlakson, co-vice president of SAAC, agreed with her coach, adding that the school is not about to become a Division I sports powerhouse.
“We are not a bunch of stuck up jocks that think we rule the school,” Torlakson said. “None of us are trying to take over the school; none of us want a football team. We are not trying to turn UC Santa Cruz into USC or UCLA.”
Despite the inability to pass last year’s measure, everyone is optimistic about this year.
“This year we have really taken steps so that every athlete knows what [the measure] is, every athlete knows how it will affect them, and every athlete is going to be held responsible for getting people out to vote and informing them about the referendum,” McCarthy said.
Carson, whose team currently receives no funding outside of the chancellor’s match, believes that strong athletics have the potential to augment the campus as a whole.
“With increased athletics comes increased campus visibility, increased applications, and increased student life,” Carson said. “When we go play schools like Stanford, people see us, and people will start talking about our strong academics.”
Andrews, who oversees the entire department, agrees that athletics is way of showing UCSC off to other schools around the country.
“I think having NCAA sports is a big boon to this campus,” Andrews said. “We are going all over the place representing this campus in a good way. I think you can have solid athletics and education. They don’t need to be exclusive of one another.”
Aside from being certain of the UCSC athletics department’s positive effects on campus, Andrews is clueless as to what will happen if the department takes a $140,000 hit.
“If the contract isn’t renewed, and the referendum doesn’t pass, then what? That’s big trouble,” Andrews said.
There is a possibility that the chancellor could extend the matching funds for a smaller amount. There is also speculation that the department may receive $40,000 next year so that it does not have to absorb the big hit all at once. Even if that happens, however, the department would still take a $100,000 cut.
“Do you [make athletes] sleep on floors?” UCSC Athletic Director Linda Spradley asked. “Do you not feed them? Does each athlete have to pay $1,000? If we don’t find funds some other way, we have no options.”
Although the campus elections are in just a few weeks, it will not be known whether or not the chancellor’s match will continue next year until early summer.
“If you’re going to have the classroom, put in the desks,” Spradley said. “If you are going to have athletics, give us what we need to minimally survive—we will raise all the rest.”