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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Editorial: Ends don’t justify means

On Oct. 5 the Dempsey Report was released. The university-sponsored evaluation was intended to show where UC Davis stands as an athletic program, and provide a blueprint for where the university could go from here.

The report outlines several ways to increase funding for major sports, in the hopes of allowing UC Davis to move to the next level of collegiate athletics. Among these changes would be cutting five sports, and drastically increasing the seating capacity of both Aggie Stadium and the Pavilion.

While making vast improvements to UC Davis athletics is a noble goal, in this case, the ends do not justify the means.

Cutting five sports could leave over 100 student-athletes without the program they had entered the university for – roughly the same number that were affected when UC Davis cut four sports in 2010.

The diversity of sports at UC Davis is part of what makes the university unique. Very few institutions support 23 teams, let alone doing so at the Division I level. UC Davis is not known as a football or basketball power, and students don’t apply to UC Davis expecting national championships. Instead they come to UC Davis to be part of a different campus lifestyle – a lifestyle that is promoted by academic, cultural and athletic diversity.

And even if the prescribed changes are made to the athletic department, there is no guarantee that UC Davis will become a winning program. Studies commissioned by the NCAA have shown no correlation between increased spending and improved win-loss records. Making these costly changes without a guarantee of success seems far from worthwhile.

Over the next several months, Chancellor Linda Katehi will be reviewing candidates for athletics director based on the feedback she receives on the Dempsey Report. Despite the fact that students fund over 60 percent of UC Davis’ athletics budget, the student body is being largely left out of this decision-making process.

When UC Davis chose to make the transition to Division I in 2003, the students were heavily consulted – even voting in favor of raising student fees to help provide funds for athletics. Yet students have remained largely in the dark during this search for a new athletics director – the biggest decision to face UC Davis athletics since the move to Division I.

Few students attended last week’s poorly-publicized town-hall meeting, and those who did were largely student-athletes. Vice Chancellor Fred Wood has said he is attempting to set up a students-only meeting to discuss the search, but no date has been set. With student dollars at stake and the search already underway, it is vital for students to become informed and make their voices heard at the next town-hall meeting Wednesday at the UC Davis Conference Center.

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