California’s budget woes continue as the river of setbacks and sacrifice flows downhill.
The state has made cuts to higher education, UC campuses have made cuts to all units and on April 16, the UC Davis Athletics Department announced the elimination of four teams.
As if losing four different programs wasn’t bad enough, the cuts may have a negative impact on UC Davis’ ability to raise funds from alumni.
“Some alumni have contacted the school and said they won’t give more money as a result of the cuts,” said Cindy Spiro, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs.
The decision to cut the men’s swimming team, men’s indoor track team, men’s wrestling and women’s rowing team affects 153 athletes at UC Davis directly, including the 73 members of the women’s rowing team, the most participants of any female sport at the school.
By cutting the four athletic programs, UC Davis is projected to save $2.4 million this year and reach solvency by 2013-14, according to Chancellor Linda Katehi.
In addition to the friends and family of the athletes directly affected by the decision, some alumni are making their voice heard as well.
As reported in a Sacramento Bee article last week, former UC Davis wrestler and current mixed martial arts star Urijah Faber said that, due to the elimination of the wrestling team, he no longer plans to give any donations to UC Davis.
Faber’s regular contributions to the university were uncommon among athletic alumni, Spiro said, and that’s part of the problem.
“We reviewed our 2008-09 data and found that only 5 percent of athletic alumni give back,” she said. “95 percent of our athletic alumni did not make a gift to intercollegiate athletics.”
UC Davis’ fundraising for athletics has averaged approximately $1.7 million over the last five years, according to Spiro. Unfortunately, that number isn’t as promising as it sounds. Sixty percent of that figure is dedicated to construction projects like Aggie Stadium and 30 percent of the money comes in the form of restricted gifts.
“[Restricted gifts] are directly given to a sport, endowment or purpose,” Spiro said. “Gifts that are given to the sport don’t necessarily offset the cost of the sports operating budget, they’re for added expenses like an assistant coach’s salary or video scout systems for example.”
The remaining 10 percent, around $200,000, is labeled unrestricted and supplements the institutional funding in the annual budget.
Spiro said the challenge UC Davis currently faces is increasing the amount of unrestricted donations currently received from alumni.
“It’s a challenge because people are more likely to give for a purpose,” she said.
Katehi stuck with her decision to eliminate the four athletic programs despite offers of fundraising support from outside sources.
“I appreciate the offers of financial support we have received and the request for additional time to fundraise,” she said. “Successful continuance of a sport requires reliable and sustainable funding. Leave the viability of these programs subject to year-to-year success of various fundraising efforts is not, in my view, a responsible approach.”
Spiro agreed, noting that even if money could be raised to continue the programs another year, beyond that the funding becomes less reliable.
“For the most part, unless a substantial amount of money has been provided to create an endowment, past experience has shown that most of the energy in fundraising to continue a sport only lasts for the first year or so,” she said.
Although the current financial situation is grim – the athletics department still needs to cut $400,000 from operational funding – Spiro hopes that alumni will take this time to reflect.
“With time comes perspective,” she said. “Right now at this time we need to honor those sports and respect their contributions to UC Davis.”
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.