The going is getting tougher for the UC Santa Cruz athletic department, as its staff tries to find a way to continue supporting their teams with their limited budget.
The latest problem is that UCSC currently does not meet the requirement set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). According to NCAA standards, colleges must have an equal number of men’s and women’s teams — UCSC has seven women’s teams to five men’s teams.
Ryan Andrews, executive director of the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS) and head of the Athletic Task Force, explained the current requirements that UCSC does not meet because of this discrepancy.
“The minimum number of teams right now is 10, which we meet,” Andrews said. “Next year though, it’s going up to 12, which we do meet, but what the NCAA wants is six men’s teams and six women’s teams.”
Andrews explained the role Title Nine plays in the decision to add an NCAA team. Title Nine requires colleges requesting federal funding to distribute the money in proportion to the gender population on campus.
“The issue with adding a men’s team is that we will also have to add a women’s team in order to stay Title Nine-compliant, because we want to have equal participation between men and women, or at least participation equal to that of our campus,” Andrews said.
Since the athletic department feels unable to comply with this new rule due to a lack of finances, they are applying for a waiver that would exempt UCSC from the rule for the upcoming year.
“There are a lot of schools going out and getting this waiver because they too are just not ready for the jump, either financially or otherwise,” said Linda Spradley, the athletic director.
All this comes at a bad time for the department due to the recent budget cuts and the current re-evaluation of its programs by the Athletic Task Force. “We just had to drop two sports a year ago,” Spradley said, explaining why it would be unrealistic for UCSC to comply with the NCAA rule by adding new teams. “Why on earth would we think we have money to add sports?”
Andrews agrees that this is not the time to add more strain to an already underfunded program.
“This is not the time to add a team, for two reasons,” Andrews said. “Financially, obviously, but we are currently spending the year reviewing athletics. So why would you make implementations before you’ve really had a chance to review the program?”
Andrews clarified, however, that the Athletic Task Force is pushing for the athletic department to thrive and continue competing in the NCAA.
Spradley and Andrews say there is little concern about the school receiving the NCAA waiver, as they feel that the current funding situation will warrant it.
The problem that remains, however, is solving these financial woes. Currently each student pays $15 a year toward the athletic department. However, at an average Division III school each student pays $100 to $150. In addition, the current annual budget for the athletic department is about $1.1 million, while the DIII average is close to $1.9 million.
“We need the students and the administration of this campus to step up and decide what the value of this program is to them,” Andrews said. “Within the next three years, if the department can get through that, there will probably be a referendum on the ballot in which the students will have to decide if they want this program.”
Junior Molly Kossoff, a recent transfer student, says she would support the athletic department as long as they would spend any additional money wisely.
“If the students [get] involved in the programs, and if we as a community saw concrete changes occur to the program, then yes, I would be fine giving some more money to the program,” Kossoff said.
Andrews believes that in the meantime, the best thing for the athletic department to do is bide its time and wait for a final decision regarding the waiver before they act.
“I think it’s crazy to make a move and start adding teams before we’ve had a chance to make a full review,” he said. “We have to be smart and strategic about this.”