Photo by Morgan Grana

It’s about time UC Santa Cruz acknowledges its NCAA sports.

The most fun experiences I’ve had this year have been at games. In the West Field House, I was part of a roar for women’s volleyball’s come-from-behind win against Mills College. I watched freshman Sarah Mackey block shot after shot in basketball games, too. I even witnessed the extreme elation of the crowd when the home team scored in soccer.

This isn’t the student life I envisioned when I first came to UCSC, but since I attended my first NCAA game this year, I’ve never let up. Our programs’ results speak to its quality.

UC Santa Cruz has become a quiet sporting power in Division III. Men’s volleyball has finished in the top five in the nation for seven out of 10 years. Slug tennis had a year of great adversity and triumphs. Both soccer teams routinely go to playoffs. Basketball has improved.

Such talented players, great results and great events — so why don’t students care about NCAA sports?

Student life at UCSC only goes so far, and no further. On the one hand, we have classic events — 4/20 and First Rain, two events with storied histories. On the other hand, that’s where the spirit ends, with no other events bringing the campus community together. Besides, after you do those events once, the novelty wears off.

UCSC has no homecoming events. We don’t bring in big speakers often, nor do we take an exceptional amount of pride in our alumni. Our decentralized campus has made it difficult for us to unify. It’s been a divided experience for me, with some of my cross-campus friendships becoming the hardest to maintain. Hardly anyone organizes a serious protest in Quarry Plaza, let alone a pep rally.

NCAA sports at UCSC can become the epicenter of campus life, if we let it. It can add to the Slug spirit every freshman feels, but loses eventually. Rahul Kalra’s Slug Pride group is trying to fix the absence of school spirit in athletics. But he shouldn’t be the only one concerned with the state of student life.

By turning out more fans, providing face paint and encouraging loud cheering, Kalra’s group exhibits an evolution for student life. The creative cheers and friendly atmosphere has made for a better cross-campus experience. We should all get behind his message of uniting the campus through sports.

When I attend games, I often wonder why my friends aren’t interested in coming, even if the game is held at their college, a few feet from where they sleep. Showing Banana Slug pride is not something we do alone. It has been my goal to bring my friends to games. And once they’ve seen our teams play, they’ve all left astonished at the great time they had.

In recent years, groups on campus have been discussing making a better student life at UCSC. This was a central themes in last year’s Student Union Assembly chair race between Guy Herschmann and Amanda Buchanan. Despite big talk, building real spirit hasn’t been addressed. Let’s start by embracing our sports teams more.

Next season should be filled with screaming UCSC kids cheering on tennis or volleyball. Students can have tailgating barbecues at soccer games in the East Remote Lot or hold a “silent night” basketball game, where the stands are silent for a few minutes each half before fans launch nonstop cheering. At the very least, the athletics department should sponsor a face painting event in Quarry Plaza to support students continuing athletic success.

With that said, students may not know where the sports games are because the teams are not advertised heavily on campus. It’s hard to find any sports game postings at bus stops or the dining halls. Students need to help the teams out — spread the word. It’s only the best kept secret at UCSC.