84.8 F

Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Guest opinion: Linda P.B. Katehi

To the UC Davis Community:

It has been a little over two weeks since our campus announced what has truly been one of the most difficult and painful decisions of my short tenure at UC Davis – discontinuing four of UC Davis’ 27 intercollegiate sports as the campus continues to struggle through an unprecedented financial crisis.

Since that announcement on April 16, my office and others on campus have received hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and letters from students, parents, alumni and other friends of Aggie athletics urging me to reconsider my decision. Many have suggested alternative solutions and recommendations, including not discontinuing any sports, or discontinuing different sports, or substantially reducing the administrative budget of Intercollegiate Athletics, or launching a major fundraising effort to partially or fully cover the sports on a year-to-year basis. Others suggested that I was given faulty data, or that we followed a flawed process, or that I have misunderstood one or more of the admittedly complex factors that were key to this multidimensional decision.

Those of you who have shared your views have been thoughtful and heartfelt with all your comments, recommendations and concerns, and I know you have the best interests of the university and its intercollegiate athletics program in mind.

But it is important for all of you to understand that in reaching my decision, I too did so with what I believed to be the best interests of the university and our intercollegiate athletics program in mind. I considered all of the suggested options listed above, as well as others. I made my final decision – to discontinue women’s rowing, men’s wrestling, men’s swimming and diving and men’s indoor track and field – only after considering all those possibilities, and after consulting with senior leadership. It is also important for you to know that I have full faith in those who participated in the review process, and I am confident that their evaluation and review was comprehensive, fair and deliberative.

As I wrote to Vice Chancellor Fred Wood on April 16, in accepting his recommendation to discontinue those four sports, I believe that going forward, our new Intercollegiate Athletics budget model offers the least impact to student-athlete participation and provides the most realistic approach to supporting continued academic and athletic excellence in the program. (For more information on the decision, please go to: news.ucdavis.edu/special_reports/sports_dropped/).

It is important to understand the pressures on our Intercollegiate Athletics budget in the context of our broader financial crisis here at UC Davis. For the past two years, the campus has been working to resolve unprecedented shortfalls totaling more than $150 million, or 25 percent, of its general fund budget of $590 million as of July 1, 2008. 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 response to budget cuts over the past two years, Intercollegiate Athletics has already made significant cuts in its administration and operations while preserving all sports. The significant new cut to the program’s budget ($2.4 million, with associated benefit costs) cannot feasibly be accomplished with past solutions. As part of my decision to discontinue only four sports, Intercollegiate Athletics still must absorb another $400,000 in annual operational cuts as our campus continues to struggle through this financial crisis. Still, we are confident that this new budget will reduce costs by more than $5 million over the next five years, and will eliminate a $1.4 million deficit and return Intercollegiate Athletics to fiscal solvency by 2013-14.

I appreciate the offers of financial support we have received and the request for additional time to fundraise. Successful continuance of a sport requires reliable and sustainable funding. Leaving the viability of these programs subject to the year-to-year success of various fundraising efforts is not, in my view, a responsible approach. Programmatically, the uncertain nature of such funding would make it difficult to recruit competitive student-athletes and coaches.

If donors were allowed to contribute to a specific sport in the short term, this support would have to be considered within the context of gender equity and Title IX. The best external funding mechanism would be an endowment that is not specific to any sport and that is of enough size to produce annual returns sufficient to support teams in compliance with the requirements of Title IX, the NCAA and relevant athletic conference affiliations. Currently, it is not reasonable to foresee such a funding mechanism.

There were other factors to consider too, in addition to finances. Our final decision had to not only be fiscally sound, but also comply with the multidimensional requirements of federal Title IX regulations, the NCAA, the Big West Conference and other member conferences, as well as relevant student-approved referenda, all in order to minimize the impact on a large number of sports and support services.

In all, the campus reviewed 13 men’s and women’s sports for continued viability based on a set of criteria and considerations that included: current conference and NCAA financial aid and membership requirements; compliance with what is called Prong One of Title IX’s three-prong compliance test; and the need to cut additional operating expenses in order to offset the significant reduction in funding for Intercollegiate Athletics.

Director of Athletics Greg Warzecka and his staff evaluated more than 20 models for their potential to reach fiscal solvency. He and his team met with coaches as well as many other groups and constituents.

The welfare of student-athletes at UC Davis has been front and center in the discussions and decision-making about the budget cuts. We will continue our annual grants-in-aid, or scholarships, for student-athletes of discontinued sports who choose to continue their studies at UC Davis, as they make “normal” progress toward their degrees. At UC Davis, full grants-in-aid in 2009-10 are worth $21,513.

For those who were concerned that we moved too quickly in our review, evaluation and decision, I want to point out that we made our April 16 announcement as close as possible to April 14 so that current and prospective student-athletes could make their choices about where to study and compete in the future. The National Letter of Intent signing period for some sports – including men’s swimming and diving and men’s wrestling – began April 14.

The varsity programs that will be discontinued, especially men’s wrestling and women’s rowing, all have the opportunity to be supported and thrive through the Sport Club program at UC Davis. Indeed, UC Davis has one of the largest and most active Sport Club programs in the UC system.

We recognize that UC Davis’ coaches and student-athletes are proud, talented and dedicated. We all appreciate that the student-athletes and their coaches and Aggie fans are in mourning for the loss of the teams, and what those losses mean to them as individuals. I share that sense of loss.

Now it is time for us to come back together, to embrace the Aggie pride that makes our program unique, and to begin focusing on how – together – we can move forward to ensure long-term success for our student-athletes on and off the field of play.


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