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Davis, California

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Column: Getting thirsty

We won! The Aggies finally defeated our most aggressive athletic opponent: garbage.

You might’ve read last week that in October 2010, our very own Aggie Stadium won a national competition sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency by recycling almost 90 percent of the waste thrown away at a home game against Southern Alabama, a game we lost by a field goal.

What you didn’t read is that despite its award-winning “greenness,” our Aggie Stadium doesn’t do the one thing it was built to do: make us money.

The ultimate ambition of a collegiate athletic department is to bring in enough revenue to cover its expenses, begin to expand (increasing revenue over time) and eventually contribute its revenue to the rest of the campus. The ultimate ambition of building a $31 million stadium is to give those revenue figures a violent shove from the red into the black. Neither of these ambitions have come to fruition yet, but hey, at least we can recycle.

To give you a brief and underdeveloped snapshot of our athletic department, according to the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Tool, the UC Davis Aggies had over $13 million in expenses in 2009-10 across all ICA sports. Serendipitously, we brought in the exact same figure in revenue, to the dollar. This means we won’t be doling out more scholarship money, making improvements to our facilities, or expanding in any tangible way without dropping back into the red in Fall 2011.

The year before, UCD athletics actually took a $4 million hit. Our athletic programs don’t seem to be expanding themselves.

This concerns me, because I’ve been here long enough to remember rumors of Anheuser-Busch offering to buy our stadium’s naming rights for $10 million and the opportunity to serve beer at football games. We turned them down. After all, UC Davis is a “dry” campus; we can’t serve beer (as evidence: Picnic Day and the kegs of beer and cases of wine that I’ve personally sold in the “donors area” of the football games).

Anheuser-Busch is a corporation that has invested more generously on the UC Davis campus than most, including a series of donations to help fund our new Robert Mondavi Institute buildings that boast state-of-the-art beer brewing equipment and methods for our unparalleled classes.

We’re too “dry” to serve beer to our football fans, but not to teach our students how to make it. In this moment of financial instability, our campus needs to start profiting from the things we’re good at. If we’re good at making beer – the one beverage that we can sell at an 80 percent markup that will still draw more fans – then it’s time to start selling a UC Davis brew. If not, call up Anheuser-Busch and tell them we changed our mind and we’ll take that $10 million and we’ll let them do it. You never know which 16-ounce beer in a clear plastic cup will turn a fan into our next donor.

If we want to have a conversation about our stadium’s accomplishments, winning an EPA competition should come second to keeping athletic programs running and increasing revenue from year to year. On that front, we’re not winning any awards. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as proud of our Waste Reduction and Recycling Program as any Aggie, but just because we can recycle our decidedly non-alcoholic beverage containers doesn’t mean the headline should read “Aggie Stadium: It’s Awesome.” It comes off as disingenuous.

Our stadium will be awesome when we accept the $10 million naming rights offers from corporations that have already invested even more in our education so far. Our stadium will be awesome when we begin selling the quality products we teach our students how to make in an effort to keep wrestlers wrestling and swimmers swimming. Our stadium will be awesome when its revenue finally contributes even a dollar to your tuition. Our stadium will be awesome when we recycle 90 percent of our waste while winning a game by a field goal.

JOSH ROTTMAN is thirsty. If you’re thirsty too, you can reach him at jjrottman@ucdavis.edu to get a ticket to Lambda Chi Alpha’s Mardi Gras at The Grad on March 9.


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