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Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Guest opinion: Greg Warzecka

I’m sure that by now many of you have read or heard something about the gravity of the financial problems at UC Davis and the potential impact on the Intercollegiate Athletics program. In recent weeks, hundreds of students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends of the university have contacted me to express their heartfelt concern for particular sports programs or for the future of Intercollegiate Athletics overall. I’ve also had numerous meetings with internal constituent groups. I appreciate your interest and your concern, and I want everyone in the UC Davis community to understand that I feel and hear your worry and distress.

For the past two years, UC Davis has been working through an unprecedented fiscal crisis. During this time, our university has made tough decisions and difficult choices to resolve shortfalls totaling more than $150 million, or 25 percent of the general fund budget. For 2010-2011, the campus faces an additional shortfall of $38 million to $78 million, depending on the outcome of the governor’s budget proposal.

In a Feb. 5 budget-planning letter to the campus, Chancellor Linda Katehi and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia proposed among other things $36 million in budget reductions campuswide, including a $1.79-million cut to Intercollegiate Athletics, effective July 1, from campus general funds and registration fee funds.

It’s important for the entire UC Davis community to understand that the $1.79-million cut was academic money that goes to pay the salaries and benefits for physical education lecturers and supervisors who also have a coaching assignment, and not to support our 27 teams.

That’s because our approach at UC Davis is unique within the UC system and in Division I. In the same way that we have student-athletes at UC Davis, we also have teacher-coaches. So these people teach and manage the physical education program within the College of Letters and Science, in addition to their coaching responsibilities. These lecturers administer exams and give grades to students in classes, classes that the students take for academic credit. These lecturers report to Dean Ron Mangun of the Division of Social Sciences, and not to me.

This $1.79 million cut in physical education costs will now fall to Intercollegiate Athletics. But the cut is actually greater – closer to $2.4 million – when you include benefits that will have to be paid for.

The chancellor and provost have left it up to Intercollegiate Athletics, a unit of Student Affairs, to come up with our own budget for 2010-2011, to find ways to bring our program back to fiscal solvency. But it’s important to understand that we are left with very few options to manage a cut of this magnitude.

Last month, Student Affairs Vice Chancellor Fred Wood appointed an eight-member team of campus faculty and staff to review, assist and advise Intercollegiate Athletics on our budget recommendations. My leadership team has met with these advisors several times and we will continue to meet in April.

Today, we can be proud of the level of revenue we are currently generating, and current staff will continue to be creative and entrepreneurial. But it would be reckless to continue to behave as if Intercollegiate Athletics has enough flexibility with its funding sources to continue all 27 NCAA Division I teams.

We have found prudent and creative ways to resolve the numerous budgetary challenges facing the department in the past, but we have now reached the end of credible alternatives. We have tried short-term fundraising efforts that generate less than $100,000 per year per sport; we now need to accept that those efforts have fallen short of solving the massive financial problem we currently face.

As a result, we are now reviewing 13 different men’s and women’s sports based on established criteria that include, among other considerations, current conference and NCAA requirements and continued compliance with federal Title IX regulations.

Vice Chancellor Wood’s appointed advisory team will ensure that all options under consideration will undergo a budgetary and legal review prior to his forwarding any final recommendation to Chancellor Katehi and Provost Lavernia. In some cases, varsity programs that are discontinued may have the opportunity to be supported and grow through Campus Recreation’s Sport Clubs program. UC Davis has one of the largest and most active sport club programs in the country.

While other NCAA Division I institutions have recently announced the discontinuation of varsity sports – and many others have announced review processes similar to ours – I want to stress that our current circumstance can’t be compared with the decisions made by other institutions. It’s also important for you all to understand that we are not now just beginning to analyze our Intercollegiate Athletics budget for efficiencies and cost cutting.

Indeed, over the past few years, Intercollegiate Athletics has looked for various ways to shed costs and still provide the most essential core services needed to maintain competitive teams and student-athlete welfare. We can no longer address these challenges solely with across-the-board sports and administrative unit budget reductions – we have already done so. We have also taken advantage of staff attrition while asking the remaining staff to take on additional responsibilities. We have already cut sports budgets across the board and replaced the multi-year cuts with donations. But this is not a sustainable approach for our 27-sport program over the long term.

In essence, most mid-level Division I institutions don’t sell a lot of tickets. And if a school doesn’t have a large alumni base making significant contributions, and if it isn’t in a Division I conference that generates revenue, then athletic administrators have little chance of growing revenue significantly to offset budget cuts of the size that we face today at UC Davis.

Let me also add that the intrinsic value and life’s lessons that student-athletes learn today from varsity participation are present in all 27 of our NCAA Division I sports; those values and lessons are not any greater or more valuable in one sport over another. Unfortunately, in the immediate and near future we will lack the funding necessary to continue all 27 sports. As a result, some male and female opportunities to participate in athletics at UC Davis will be lost.

For many years, UC Davis has had a history and practice of expanding its intercollegiate athletics program. Given the current financial situation, we can no longer add sports. Instead, we will shift our compliance efforts to what is known as “Prong One” of Title IX’s three-prong compliance test, which requires an institution to maintain competitive opportunities for men and women in substantial proportion to the ratio between the genders in the undergraduate population.

Starting in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, we will move forward with those sports that help the Intercollegiate Athletics program maintain a broad-based offering of sports for men and women while allowing the department the best chance to reach and maintain fiscal solvency.

I want to thank you all again for your concern and your interest, and for your continued support for Aggie athletics.


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