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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Budget cuts spur student athletes to action

Keegan Groot usually swims two hours a day and lifts weights for an hour three times a week. Along with individual practice, Groot may clock in around 20 hours of training by Sunday. But for the sophomore exercise biology major and breast stroke-swimmer on the UC Davis’s men’s swimming team, this routine may not last.

Groot is one of possibly three hundred student athletes whose teams may be targeted for closure as a result of a projected $2.4 million cut to the UC Davis Intercollegiate Athletics Department.

He is also one of hundreds of students who marched on Mrak Hall and Hickey Gym on Friday to persuade Chancellor Linda Katehi and Athletics Director Greg Warzecka not to eliminate any sports teams.

While the exact sport teams to be eliminated have not been revealed, some student athletes believe that swimming, water polo and rowing are the sports that will be cut.

“He needs to let us know what’s going on, what we need to do to save our teams,” said Matt Herman, a history major and also member of the men’s swimming team.

In a letter to student athletes and coaches, Warzecka wrote that the severity of the budget reduction required a review of 13 sports to be considered for closure. It would be based on current conference considerations, NCAA requirements and compliance with Title IX regulations.

“We have tried short-term fundraising efforts that generate less than $100,000 per year per sport,” Warzecka wrote. “We now need to accept that those efforts have fallen short of solving the massive financial problem we currently face.”

Warzecka also said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee that a decision could come within ten days.

The students first tried to present over 2,000 signatures to Katehi urging her to uphold two student-passed initiatives that stated UC Davis would have a broad number of sports teams. They then filed in to Hickey Gym demanding to see Warzecka, chanting “Save our sports” and “UCD, don’t cut me.”

The march came after the ASUCD Senate unanimously passed a resolution authored by Shawdee Rouhafza [cq], a former ASUCD senator and member of the UC Davis’s women’s tennis team, opposing the cuts to the ICA. The resolution also asked the university and athletics administration to look at broad based cuts in the department.

In her remarks, Rouhafza echoed the concern of other student athletes who felt the closure of sports teams would affect their financial ability to attend UC Davis.

“After a year they won’t have a scholarship to stay here or be able to compete on a team,” Rouhafza said.

Although Groot said he was not as dependent on his sports scholarship as other student athletes, he might have to find a job to pay for his education. He also said he would likely transfer without the chance to compete in his sport.

“Swimming is of a level of importance for me that would make me want to transfer,” said Groot, who has two years of eligibility remaining as a student athlete. “I can’t see myself without it in my undergraduate career.”

Although Herman also said he might transfer if his sports team is cut, he pointed to the march as evidence there is enough student support to protect the teams.

“What I’m going to do is sit back and let the storm unfold on the athletic administration,” Herman said. “It’s not just coming from the student athletes but from the students as well.”

Janet Gong, senior associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said Student Affairs will receive financial strategies from Warzecka next week. As chair of a work group that is advising vice chancellor of student affairs Fred Wood on the ICA budget cuts, Gong said the difficulty of cuts was being played out across the campus.

“It is not solely an Intercollegiate Athletics problem. It is a campuswide problem,” Gong said. “It is making very difficult decisions with very constrained resources and still trying to maintain the basic mission of the institution, trying to maintain access and affordability to the institution, and trying to maintain excellence at the institution.”

LESLIE TSAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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