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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Guest Opinion: Fixing Aggie Athletics

Last week, Rajiv Narayan wrote to encourage civic education and involvement. Amen! Certainly doing something about the outrageous cost of public education is a top priority. But before there was Occupy and before anyone on campus knew what it felt like to be pepper sprayed, a crisis had brewed up within Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA).

After illegitimately dropping four teams in 2010 on grounds of “fiscal sustainability” (never mind that it’s you who fund Athletics, not the state), in 2011 the chancellor started pushing “excellence” instead — and the notion of going “Big Time” with Aggie sports. If only she could get rid of those pesky Core Principles.

So she hired former NCAA President Cedric Dempsey to tell her how. Well, what the 2011 UC Davis Athletics Strategic Audit (aka “The Dempsey Report”) made clear, what the vast majority of the speakers at the town hall meetings pointed out, and what ultimately even the chancellor’s hand-picked recruitment committee agreed, was that the chancellor’s grand idea was not such a good one. Furthermore, it became painfully obvious that ICA’s leadership has managed to lose its way.

Just before all hell broke loose on the Quad last November, the Academic Senate commissioned a “Special Committee on Athletics.” Why do you suppose they did that? The committee’s findings are expected to be available shortly, and not just to the chancellor. Whatever this committee has to say should be required reading for everyone who cares about the integrity of Athletics at UC Davis — especially those who pay for it.

So what can you do? For starters, don’t wait for the very same officials who brought about the systemic problems within ICA to fix them. Likewise, don’t expect a brand new athletic director to come in, wave a “do the right thing” wand and solve everything either. Instead, ASUCD needs to step up and defend its own interests. For instance:

Individually learn and institutionally remember why ASUCD provides ICA with over $16 million annually through the SASI, FACE and CEI initiatives. Publicize the Core Principles of Intercollegiate Athletics and educate fellow students about the Davis Way and the teacher/coach model. They should be viewed as a deep source of Aggie Pride.

Establish meaningful ASUCD oversight of ICA and demand full transparency and accountability by the university. If the administration offers only advisory committees, then send it only advisory dollars. Do not accept the role of silent funding partner any longer.

Demand that the university respects and abides by UC Davis’ own Core Principles of Intercollegiate Athletics. They’re not “more like guidelines,” they’re contractual terms.

Identify ways to reduce excessive ICA administration costs and see that emphasis is placed instead on student-athlete welfare. This was not done as promised in 2010 and will clearly never happen on its own. ICA admin costs remain double those of Cal Poly and Sac State.

Insist that the diverse athletic participation opportunities associated with Women’s Rowing and Men’s Swimming/Diving and Wrestling be fully restored.

Evaluate different funding models for maximum sustainability for all sports. Consider mandating that all SASI, FACE and CEI funding be distributed to teams on an equal per-student-athlete basis (adjusting for Title IX compliance). Let those sports which cannot remain competitive at this level of secure funding be responsible for reducing costs (through roster management, minimizing travel expenses, changing conference affiliation, etc.) and/or compete for less secure funding.

Then, when ICA has found its way once again, spread the word far and wide. Many will be very glad to hear it.


  1. I’m sorry Paul, if you rearrange the money given to teams based on competitiveness, you are breaking 2 of the 8 core principles. You go against the “tiering” principle by giving some teams more money and
    therefore better treatment. You also go against the core principle which states that teams cannot depend on its financial survival on its record of wins and losses.

    Also, if you reinstate the 4 sports, where is this money going to come from? Are you going to wave that wand again and magically come up with a million dollars? You can’t blame the administration for the financial problems. They planned carefully for the future, had realistic projections and then the economy collapsed and the state slashed funding, removing a valuable chunk of money the athletic department relied on.

    I wish we could fully fund every sport but in reality, we can’t. Student attendance at athletic events dictates where they think their money should go. Since you want accountability and student oversight, maybe we should go that route to decide which teams get money?

  2. With all of this harsh talk, I would like to hear Mr. Medved’s ideas for balancing the ICA budget. Also, I would advise Mr. Medved to look at the Recruitment Advisory Committee’s recommendations to the chancellor and the chancellor’s response. I think once Mr. Medved does this, he will be better informed of the situation and realize where the chancellor, the university, and UC Davis Athletics is heading.


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