Jump in Athletics Fee Paves Way for Brighter Future for UCSD Sports Programs
Ioana Patringenaru | February 12, 2007
Teams will travel out of state more often. Coaches’ salaries will increase. All athletes will receive $500 scholarships.
These are some of the payoffs from a hike in athletic fees approved by students during an Associated Student election held Jan. 29 to Feb. 2. A record number of UCSD students voted to raise their athletic fees from $95 to $329 per year. The campus’ sports programs are poised to the reap benefits starting this fall. Proponents of the fee increase predict that better athletic programs will lead to more student pride and a better campus climate.
Almost 42 percent of undergraduates turned out to vote on the athletics referendum. That’s an all-time record for Associated Students elections, said A.S. President Harry Khanna. In all, 55.6 percent of voters approved the fee hike.
“I think I’m excited,” Khanna said. “I think we’re all excited.”
The fee increase didn’t face organized opposition, though some argued that it would harm access and affordability, the A.S. president added. He pointed out that 29 percent of the funds will go to financial aid for needy students, to offset additional costs.
The results of the vote sparked quite a bit of excitement among students and coaches.
“There’s no reason we can’t become the best Division II athletics program now,” said baseball head coach Dan O’Brien.
“Student spirit and pride is really going to improve,” said Dan Noel, who runs track and field and chairs the Triton Athletes Council.
Athletes campaigned hard to pass the referendum, said baseball player David Tyler Morehead. “It’s a good sense of accomplishment,” he said.
By voting to assess a tax on themselves, students helped protect other services that come from registration fees, said Henry C. Powell, who chairs UCSD’s Academic Senate. “It was a manifestation of democratic action taken by students, of student self-government,” he said. “We all believe a healthy mind survives in a healthy body,” he added later.
The vote also means that UCSD will be able to comply this fall with an NCAA Division II requirement, mandating that all members provide at least $250,000 in athletic scholarships. The university received a waiver last year and will apply for one this year as well.
Meanwhile, the university’s athletics’ budget will double to $3.5 million a year.
“It puts the athletics program on the road to stability,” said Athletics Director Earl Edwards.
The new funds will bring about several changes, Edwards explained.
- Teams will now have to raise fewer funds, he said. That was welcome news for Noel. Some students work for sports facilities or sell concert tickets to raise money to travel to competitions, he said. Others sweep the gym floor and maintain pools on campus, he added. They now will be able to cut back, he predicted. “To be able to focus on your sport and school, it really will make a difference,” Noel said.
- Teams also will be able to travel out of state more often for competitions, Edwards said. That will be a plus for UCSD’s baseball team, said O’Brien. In a sport where polls play a major role, the Tritons need to play in other parts of the country to prove they’re a worthy post-season team, he said.
- Coaches also will get pay raises, another major improvement, Edwards said. Coaches at other universities can be paid twice as much as at UCSD, said Denny Harper, who coaches men’s waterpolo. His team often plays, and wins, against better-funded Division I powerhouses, including Stanford and UCLA. Harper has been with UCSD for 27 years, but he worries about the next generation of coaches. “UCSD has always been an attractive place to come coach and live,” he said. “We need to make sure that quality coaches that come here stay here.” The coaches deserve a pay raise that will make UCSD competitive with other universities, said Noel. “They are such a huge part of our program and our success,” he said.
- All student athletes will receive $500 scholarships. Most students will probably use the money for tuition, books or rent, said Noel. “Even though it’s not a lot, every little bit helps,” he said.
- The university also will be able to cover more equipment costs currently shouldered by athletes, Edwards said. Plans also are in the works to hire a business manager, an equipment manager and an additional trainer, he said. The athletics program also hopes to be able to better market and promote sports teams, Edwards said.
“This is a very significant change for the athletic program and the university,” Edwards said. “This will really elevate our status not only on campus, but within athletic community as a whole.”