“My intention is to review the input you provide, and then set a course for achieving excellence in our program and our student-athletes.”
With that statement Chancellor Katehi recently declared her intent to decide the future of Aggie Athletics. She’s hiring a new Athletic Director, so she’s decided that the very nature of the program is up for grabs. Her grabs. Oh, and that she considers neither Aggie Athletics nor Aggie student-athletes “excellent” now.
It turns out there are very good reasons why Aggie Athletics is the way it is and why Aggie student-athletes are nothing short of amazing. There’s even a name for it: The Davis Way. It’s the real source of Aggie Pride. It’s what makes UC Davis unique and why it won six Director’s Cups at the D2 level. It’s about doing college sports in a principled, values-based way that is almost unheard of in D1. It’s based on an “educational model” and remembering that athletes are students first. It’s what the Ivy League does. It’s what Stanford does (albeit with a much larger budget). But almost no other schools you have ever heard of. Everybody else is going for the gold. Everybody else plays the lottery. College sports are a terrific thing, but like even a good drug, it can be abused. And abuse is rampant in big time sports where money and egos hold sway over values and principles.
In 2010 the chancellor argued that fiscal sustainability required that four important sports be dropped –– and she got away with it. Where is her fiscal sustainability argument this year? What’s sustainable about needing to double or triple spending on Athletics? How much will it cost to add at least 30K seats to Aggie stadium? When the NCAA caves to pressure to pay big time college athletes actual salaries in addition to scholarships, what will UC Davis do then? We’ll have to “remain competitive,” won’t we? If any of this were ever about fiscal sustainability it would be ludicrous to even consider going “big time”. All but a few D1 schools bleed money through their athletic departments. Thus, her very proposition amounts to an admission that this has nothing to do with fiscal sustainability. It’s about money (yours) and it’s about ego (hers).
Whose program is ICA anyway? Who’s paying for it? According to the recently completed UC Davis Athletics Strategic Audit, the students are directly responsible for $19M of the $22M annual ICA budget. And of that $19M, $16M is based on voluntarily self-taxation (SASI, CEI, FACE initiatives). The annual cash flow provided by ASUCD is equivalent to a nearly $400M endowment. ASUCD is the largest donor UC Davis Athletics will ever know. In your four years at UCD, you’ll contribute over $2,400 to ICA. Do you want that investment to continue to enrich your university and enhance its reputation as a principled leader, as did your predecessors? Or are you OK with your family going further into debt to subsidize the farm systems of the NFL and NBA?
Webster’s defines “piracy” as “the unauthorized use of another’s production, invention or conception.” What the university community has been experiencing for nearly two years now is nothing short of piracy. Allow this administration an opportunity to reconstitute ICA and the program we know and cherish will cease to exist. The pressure put on football and basketball to win and be profitable will be unrealistic and unfair. It will put good people in bad situations. Expectations of additional fundraising will be irrational, and when those efforts come up short, many more sports will be cut. It will end up looking like our failure, not hers.
Don’t be fooled by those who say this is just about choosing an AD. Don’t accept that this has anything to do with achieving true excellence. And it’s not about going back to D2, either. It’s about doing D1 right. The Davis Way.
Get informed. Get involved. Know where your money goes and accept nothing less than full transparency and accountability. It’s your program, it’s your house and it’s your turn to defend it.