Photo by Nick Paris.
Men’s tennis head coach Bob Hansen shows his display of trophies. Over his 30-year tenure as head coach at UCSC, he has won 10 national titles with his team. Photo by Nick Paris.

Everything is silent on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The soccer fields are empty, the pool remains in complete stillness, and the volleyball courts are closed. There is only the echo of a frenetic crowd cheering for their teams during the season, but the season is over. It is summer, and this also means another coach has to depart.

Coach Selene Teitelbaum calls for a team meeting. For the women’s volleyball team, this is just a pre-season reunion, but Teitelbaum is trying to choose the right words to break the news: The previous day she signed a contract to join Winona State University’s coaching staff. Her words leave the team speechless. Their silence speaks loudly about the sad situation of sports at UCSC.

“It wasn’t something we saw coming,” said third-year Alyssa Trakes, current captain of the women’s volleyball team. “We were very sad to see her leave. She told us that she was offered a position as a coach for a Division II school. We all understood that she had an incredible opportunity that she couldn’t pass up.”

At UCSC, one or two coaches leave every year.They find work at other campuses with better opportunities, better salaries, a higher level of competition, full-time positions and a bigger budget that supports sports. Coaches leaving their teams at such a high rate over the years can limit the development of NCAA university teams. This has also turned into an issue for the student-athletes who are unable to develop their athletic skills to their full extent, as they have to keep adjusting to different coaching styles with every coach that comes into the university.

Former D-III school UC San Diego has gone through funding problems and coach turnover as well. However, thanks to the support they received from the administration and the student body, UCSD became a D-II school. UCSC still lacks this support.

“[UCSC] is a great place to gain experience in the coaching profession,” Teitelbaum said in an e-mail. “Unfortunately, due to the lack of support from the university, it is almost impossible to make a living as a coach at UCSC. Coaches are forced to look elsewhere.”

A History of Inconsistency

Over the past two years, four coaches have left their UCSC teams. In 2009 Nikki Turner, head coach of the women’s basketball team, and Dan Chamberlain, head of the men’s soccer team, left for Cal State East Bay and Stanford University, respectively. And in the summer of 2010, in addition to Teitelbaum’s departure, Adam Boothe, head coach of the women’s cross country team, decided to try Winona State University.

Throughout the history of the athletic department at UCSC, the high number of coaches leaving the institution has remained steady and is comparatively higher than the average D-III school. Athletic Department Executive Director Andrews said the main reasons coaches leave the school are career advancement with full-time jobs, and their aspirations to work in a D-I or D-II school.

“The bottom-line is that [UCSC] doesn’t have any career positions in coaching,” Andrews said. “If you want to [coach] as a career, this isn’t the place to do it.”

Because of a lack of financial support, the athletic department has to hire coaches in a by-agreement contract. This means that on average the coaches receive $10,000 a year, and they don’t receive medical benefits.

“I realized if I was going to further my coaching career it was time to move on. It certainly had nothing to do with the runners, or people in the department,” Boothe said. “When an athletic department receives little to no support from the University, it was just something I couldn’t be a part of anymore. Being a coach [at UCSC] can ruin coaching sometimes.”

There are only three full-time coaches at UCSC: Bob Hansen, men’s tennis coach; Kim Musch, head of the swimming and diving team; and Michael Runeare, current head coach of the men’s soccer team. The three coaches gained their titles because they also work as P.E. teachers or hold other positions inside the athletic department. This also means they get paid roughly $2,000 more than the average coach.

The rest of the coaching staff is forced to find alternative jobs to help them pay the bills in Santa Cruz, as they are unable to support themselves on a UCSC coach’s salary. For former UCSC women’s cross country coach Boothe, who currently works as an assistant cross country and track and field coach at Winona State University, the salary was a major concern during his tenure at UCSC.

“The average NCAA Division III coach makes around $32,000 per year. UCSC doesn’t pay any of their coaches full-time,” Boothe said. “I owned a running store in town to sustain myself. At Winona State I make enough to sustain myself from coaching alone.”

To sustain herself as the women’s basketball head coach, Nikki Turner had to serve as the assistant of the athletic director and the sports information director as well, while at UCSC.

“I had two other busy full-time jobs on campus and it was really difficult concentrating in all [of my jobs],” Turner said. “Trying to do that and practice, and then trying to do recruiting was hard. It really makes it harder for the coach to develop the program.”

In 2009, a few months before Nikki Turner left, Dan Chamberlain gave up the men’s soccer team head coaching position to go to Stanford and become an assistant coach. He knew that he was not only heading to a Division I school, but also, he said, to a place where he could learn from coaches with more experience.

After a year at Stanford, he is now an assistant coach of the Division I Dons at the University of San Francisco.

“There’s a staff of coaches that are here full-time, whereas in Santa Cruz it was me plus a couple of part-time people trying to help as much as they could,” Chamberlain said. “My responsibilities [at USF] are more in detail than they were in UCSC. When you have four people working 40 to 60 hours a week, you can get a lot more done.”

Although some coaches cannot fully develop their coaching skills at UCSC, Ryan Andrews said the school has an appeal to some coaches who are just beginning their coaching experience.

“Here we give coaches with limited experience the opportunity to work as head coaches, something that not many schools do,” he said. “However, ideally they would have a career as coaches.”

Tritons Find the Right Balance

Blue and gold flutters everywhere. It is not only in their clothes and in their banners — the colors are inside every student and every athlete. The crowd never stops cheering: “Triton power, triton power. UCSD! Fight, fight, fight.” The noise is overwhelming, but even then, the loudness is what makes you feel at home. This is a common scenario for the UCSD Tritons, but for the UCSC Slugs, this kind of interest in sports has not yet been developed.

Ten years ago, UC San Diego was in Division III, alongside UCSC. Today, the UCSD Tritons not only have moved up divisions, but they stand as one of the best D-II schools in the country.

In 2009, UCSD was ranked first in Division II and seventh in all schools, according to the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA) Power Rankings, which bases its results on student-athlete graduation rates, academic strength and athletic prowess of the university. UCSC, meanwhile, was only ranked No. 79 on the list of Division III schools.

In 2007, UCSD students decided to pass a fee-referendum to charge $78 per quarter in order to help the athletic department keep growing. According to the UCSD Triton’s website, this fee allowed the school to increase the budget that the NCAA requires for D-II schools from $250,000 to $300,000.

With enough funding, the first step UCSD’s athletic department took after becoming D-II in 2000, was to turn all its part-time head coaches into full-time coaches, with an average salary of $50,000 a year. However, the changes to the program were more than just budgetary.

UCSD athletic director Earl Edwards said that there is an intrinsic importance in having a consistent coaching staff, together with a strong athletic department. He said this is why the UCSD’s sports program has been so successful.

“The athletic department is a place for personal development. Coaches spend four years with the athletes. They spend a lot of time practicing and getting to know them on a personal level — they get to serve as mentors, they get to know things about them outside of the classroom,” Edwards said. “The athletic department gives the student-athletes more of a holistic approach to education.”

Andrews sees more complexity in the way UCSC’s athletic department was created.

“The difference between UCSD and UCSC is that their athletics was separated from recreations. Here it’s all in one same department,” he said. “In their case, someone decided to make an athletic department and fund it.

“Here, the decision to have athletics came from within the recreation program. Usually it is the university’s administration the one that decides to create an athletic program.”

In only 10 years, UCSD has shown that, when both the students and the administration are interested in a wholly successful university, there are steps that can be taken to provide the required funding to every department — this includes athletics.

The Struggle of the Student-Athlete

One year ago, second-year history major Tyler Hoyt decided to come to UCSC, where there is no men’s track team, because his high school track and field coach had recommended he train with women’s cross country coach Boothe. After six months of training together, Coach Boothe announced he was leaving.

“I understood it was a good opportunity for him to go to a Division II school. It is admirable and respectable,” Hoyt said. “[But] it’s sad that the [athletic programs] cannot be more competitive. They need more support. Passion can only go so far without it.”

For the athletic department, recruiting new athletes is more difficult than it is for other teams because of the inconsistency in the coaching staff. Andrews explained that student-athletes want some assurance that the coach that recruited them before coming to the university is going to be there, so they know what they will obtain from the program. For those who are already part of the team, the transition also poses difficulties. “If athletes are used to one way of thinking and doing things, it takes time to adjust to another way of doing things,” said former women’s volleyball coach Teitelbaum.

Students who have gone through the process of changing coaches in the middle of their collegiate athletic career believe that the transition does affect the team. Coach Teitelbaum’s former player and current team captain Alyssa Trakes said a consistent coaching staff is central to a team’s development.

“Comfortability with coaching style is really important in most sports because it allows the athletes to build up a strong relationship and understanding with their coach,” Trakes said. “When there are frequent changes in coaching staff, the comfortability obviously decreases.”

Chamberlain, former head coach of the men’s soccer team, says that the current situation of the department is “unfair for everyone” and that it should take a determinate direction.

“If [UCSC’s administration] wants the department to have true student-athletes, then Division III is a good place to be, and then the university needs to fund the department accordingly,” he said. “If they think that they shouldn’t have an athletic department, then they should get rid of it, and have sports clubs only.”

Getting on the Right Track

In a small office overlooking the OPERS facilities sits one of the few coaches that have been at UCSC for over three decades despite the adversity and the lack of funding.

Thirty-three years after he first came to UCSC, Coach Bob Hansen sits smiling as he looks around the walls of his office. He is surrounded by tokens of his achievements: photographs celebrating championships, certificates that show his years of experience, and awards, both for coaching and for his overall team.

In his 30 years as head coach of the men’s tennis team, he has been named Coach of the Year four times by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) and has won 10 national championships in his tenure, which is the most of any NCAA D-III tennis team.

“Early on I wasn’t given a lot of support, but everyone just stood out of my way and let me create this wonderful team,” Hansen said. “I’ve had chances to leave but I was so committed to what I wanted to accomplish here; I wanted to have the best program in the country and I just kept focused on that.”

To him, the reality of the athletic department is sad, but shouldn’t be seen as an obstacle in making a team successful.

“Many coaches have remained at UCSC because they love the challenge. If you’re easily discouraged, it’s not a good place for you as a coach,” he said. “I used to think that there’re a lot of places where you can coach if you are successful, but if you can face the challenges here, you know you’re good.”

The current administration at UCSC is also becoming publicly aware of the difficulties that the athletic department has been facing over the years. As a result, UCSC vice chancellor Alma Sifuentes decided to make a report about the sports program in the university. The intention is to develop measures to improve the athletic department’s current situation.

Although this document hasn’t been approved by the school’s administration, executive director of the athletic department Andrews said that among its proposals is having full-time coaches. However, given the economical situation of the school, right now “it is not realistic to improve [the coach’s] salaries,” he said.

Coach Boothe doesn’t consider this a matter of selecting academics over athletics, or the other way around. Instead, he said that to be one of the best universities, “it is important to acknowledge all of your students’ interests, talents, and pursuits…it’s about supporting all of your students.”

The debate is still going on between the athletic department and the administration as they decide how to better support sports at UCSC. Meanwhile, the student-athletes at UCSC believe that they are the ones who will continue to deal with the inconsistencies of the program.

“[UCSC has] a great program with a huge potential,” Trakes, captain of the women’s volleyball team said. “However, our potential is being incredibly limited by the lack of support.”