Division I athletics is big business.
Enormous sums of money are poured into the athletic departments by boosters like Nike CEO Phil Knight, who donated $100 million to the University of Oregon in 2007. Tens of thousands of fans fill giant coliseums to watch college athletes compete live, while local and national networks broadcast the events to millions watching at home. And D-I football and basketball players are treated like royalty at their schools, and many leave college as full-blown celebrities.
D-III athletics, on the other hand, has a different story.
Last Tuesday, representatives from each D-III team at UC Santa Cruz gathered around a wooden table in a second-story OPERS classroom to discuss ways to raise exposure for D-III university sports teams.
Florescent light shined on the framed photographs of UCSC sports teams, as the Student Athlete Committee (SAC) discussed upcoming fundraisers that would increase revenue and exposure for the teams.
The committee discussed the logistics and plans for their fundraiser at Woodstock’s Pizza on Tuesday, April 6, from 5 to 9 p.m. At one point, a committee member asked if more flyers to publicize the event could be made.
“There’s someone using the copier right now,” Alison Aragon, the women’s golf representative, explained to the other representatives.
“We don’t get a lot of promotion, especially being a Division III school,” said third-year health sciences major CJ Villalobos of the men’s soccer team. “We have to promote ourselves.”
The fundraiser will help raise money for the SAC’s main project of the year: producing UCSC athletics T-shirts sponsored by local businesses and student organizations, which will be handed out for free to freshmen next fall.
Sorensen said he views the T-shirt campaign as a benefit for both the local company sponsors and the athletes at UCSC.
“They get their name up here on campus and we get our name out in the community,” Sorensen said.
SAC members hope that the T-shirts will create more publicity for the D-III sports teams around campus.
“You like to play in front of people, especially when you work really hard,” Villalobos said. “People don’t even recognize us; it’s the worst.”
Villalobos emphasizes the need for the teams on campus to stick together and help support one another.
Through the SAC, all the D-III teams on campus can work as one in the promotion of athletics at UCSC.
“We have to support each other, because we don’t get a lot of support from outside,” he said. “We’ve got to stick together and show up and support one another at games and stuff, which is cool.”
Sarah Finder, the women’s cross country representative, said she hopes the T-shirts will lead to more of a sports following among the student body.
“To get the whole freshman class wearing supportive T-shirts makes athletics a big deal,” Finder said. “The goal is to change the culture of the UC here and how sports are appreciated.”
As March Madness wraps up with the Final Four in Indianapolis this weekend, tens of millions of people will watch D-I athletes play basketball. The success and failure of student athletes at Duke, Butler, West Virginia and Michigan State will be written about in sports sections and talked about at water coolers all across the nation.
Members of the SAC understand that D-III athletics may never have the following that D-I schools enjoy, but Sorensen hopes the committee’s recent efforts help to expand publicity and knowledge about the NCAA teams on campus.
He said, “We want to play and we want people to know we play.”