Illustration by Louise Leong.
Illustration by Louise Leong.

It’s a misconception that the UC Santa Cruz isn’t a school for sports. UCSC has 12 NCAA teams, 24 sports clubs, nine intramural leagues and more unofficial sporting events than you can count. Too often people think that instead of football games there are protests and instead of passing around a ball we pass around bongs. Considering the fact the NCAA sports aren’t as high-profile here as they are on other UC campuses, it’s understandable how this stereotype may have come into being.

But in fact, the UCSC campus thrives on physical activity of all kinds. Take a short trip out to the East Field on a sunny day to see why it’s so easy to stay active on our campus — the view of the Monterey Bay is perhaps one of the best campus vistas in the country. Couple this with the variety of sports programs the campus offers and what you get is a diversity of programs that you won’t find elsewhere.


NCAA Division III

The various National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III teams on campus do rather well, especially considering the extremely limited budget of the athletic department compared to other Division III schools throughout the state and country. The latest budget for the athletic department was $1.1 million, which is considerably lower than the Division III average of $1.9 million. Four out of 12 teams were nationally ranked this year, and over 20 individual awards were handed out to UCSC athletes.

One example of UCSC athletic success is the men’s tennis team, which has been nationally ranked No. 1 nine times since 1976. The men’s team has made 13 finals appearances and has won five singles championships and nine doubles championships.

Not enough proof? The swim and dive team has 53 All-Americans and 281 combined awards, yet another example of the campus’ history of excellence and competitiveness.

It’s not all about the NCAA-sanctioned teams here though — there are over 20 club teams on campus including ultimate, disc golf and fencing, to name some of the more unique options.

Club sports

Club-level sports have been a part of the campus since 1967, starting with the men’s rugby team, which was the first team to use the banana slug as a mascot. Club teams have always been run and funded by the student players who are a part of the program.

A range of clubs and activities offer more choices to students who may prefer a little less — or a little more — physical contact, such as warrior yoga, sailing, battojutsu (a Japanese martial art using swords), tango, salsa and tap dance.


The popular intramural program offers everyone on campus the opportunity to participate in everything from flag football to inner-tube water polo.

Students can sign up for intramural teams or create a new team with a group of like-minded individuals. Sports include basketball, flag football and softball. Championship T-shirts and bragging rights for a year are the rewards of the champs of each league.

There are four types of leagues offered: “A,” “B,” open and co-ed. Anyone can play in any of the leagues, but the co-ed league requires team membership to be 50 percent male and 50 percent female, while the open league has no gender requirements. “A” leagues are considered more competitive, and players on “B” leagues are more likely to be playing for fun.

The intramural program is extremely popular during the fall and spring quarters, so make sure to sign up early if you decide to join, because the leagues fill up quickly. Some sports are only available for two quarters, such as futsal (a type of indoor soccer), which is offered during the rainy fall and winter quarters.

Students looking to go out and have fun in a relaxed sporting environment should consider intramural leagues, which are offered fall, winter and spring.

UCSC’s location also makes it the perfect place for seeking outdoor activity. The forest in upper campus has trails for hiking and even mountain biking. And don’t forget Santa Cruz’s reputation as a surf city.

Those who think that UCSC is a school filled with pot-smoking couch potatoes are just wrong. Our campus is filled with different communities, lifestyles and perspectives, yet sports and exercise can bring them all together. With such diversity of physical activities on campus, there’s something out there for everyone to participate in. Whether you’ve played since you were five, or if it’s the first time you’ve stepped away from the computer in a long a time, becoming a part of the athletic community can only benefit you and your college experience.


Want to get involved with campus athletics? Simply look online, or check out the OPERS offices, open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit for NCAA Divsion III teams, for club teams and for intramural sports.