In his opinion published Nov. 1, titled “Aggie Athletics,” Paul Medved discussed his fear that pressure to succeed in athletics will ultimately be the demise of our university’s principles and values. We respectfully disagree. Success does not necessarily mean compromised values.
UC Davis’ history has always been about growth and striving for greater success. We went from a farm, to a university, to a premier research institution, to the ninth-best public school in the country. And we are not done.
Athletics is no different. Over the last 10 years, our intercollegiate athletics program has grown and succeeded at levels our school has never before seen. The hiring of a new Athletic Director represents an opportunity to continue that growth in an intelligent way that helps highlight what makes UC Davis such a special place.
There’s a reason UC Davis’ name recognition outside of Northern California remains low, while schools which do not perform as well academically, such as Florida State, are household names across the nation: competitive athletics programs. For better or worse, the reality is that UC Davis can continue to be a world leader in research and academics, but the general population will never know unless we put out an athletic product equal to our peers.
Mr. Medved points out in his article that the students provide $19 million of the $22 million ICA budget. While student contribution to athletics is a noble endeavor, requiring students to sustain the program alone ties the hands of the athletics department and financially burdens students at a time when they can least afford it. With tuition rising precipitously, it is neither fair nor wise to continue to ask students to pay for 86 percent of a program that will be perennially underfunded.
Despite Mr. Medved’s fears, asking the athletic department to seek other sources of revenue, market the program better and attempt to improve Aggie athletics both competitively and financially does not spell the end for UC Davis’ values. Instead, we will end up increasing the value of our degrees, make job searches outside of California much easier for alumni, give our students a better experience without requiring them to contribute even more and field teams that increase fan interest and support.
Quite frankly, success in athletics does not harm the reputation of our quality of education at a university –– quite the opposite. If you look at the US News Top Public Schools rankings, you see the list littered with the names of schools that are competitive in intercollegiate athletics, such as Cal, UCLA, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina. A better athletics program and better athletic facilities makes a university more attractive to prospective non-athlete students as well as athletic recruits.
To be clear, this is not about moving to the PAC-12 conference anytime soon. Nor is it about turning UC Davis athletics into a back-alley operation that tarnishes the good name of the university or our student-athletes. It’s about doing what UC Davis does: strive for excellence. Our student-athletes deserve it, Aggie fans deserve it, students deserve it, alumni deserve it and the university deserves it.
We encourage anyone who agrees that Aggie athletics can and should reach for more to sign up at aggiesforexcellence.com and help us communicate our vision to Chancellor Katehi.
Kalen Gallagher, Class of 2006
Chris Herold, Class of 2007
Kai Ruess, Class of 2007
Mike Weisz, Class of 2005
Founding members of Aggies for Excellence