In March 2003, former UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef announced that UC Davis would shift its athletics program from Division II to Division I. This move, which has been funded by student fees, was initiated by the passing of the Campus Expansion Initiative (CEI) in November 2002. The CEI “put the students on record as supporting an increase in student fees to help fund the move to Division I and the Big West Conference.”
It has been six years since UC Davis entered into “the big leagues” of college athletics and received full Division I certification by the NCAA. Instead of reaping the rewards of a successful move to Division I, the University has struggled to adapt and has been unwilling to follow the guiding principles of the move.
These principles state: “UC Davis cannot reduce its broad-based program, but rather must seek to add sports” and “There can be no ‘tiering’ among UC Davis sports,” as well as a few other requirements.
To many students and affiliates of the University, the principles laid out in the CEI were just as important as the move to Division I itself. These principles represented UC Davis’ outward rejection of the failing “student-athlete” model that many major universities in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) held. UC Davis was meant to be the trailblazing force in the fight against the revenue-generating focused visions of Division I athletics.
However, the University crumbled under the spotlight of Division I pressures. In 2010, UC Davis cut four sports: men’s swimming and diving, men’s wrestling, men’s indoor track and field and women’s rowing. Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and the administration cited the state budget crisis as the reasoning for these cuts, while at the same time increasing the funding for sports such as basketball and football.
It seems strange that the state budget crisis would have any impact on the Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) program whatsoever, as it is funded largely through student fees. According to the University’s own Equity in Athletics Data Analysis report, which breaks down the revenue and costs of specific sections in the ICA, the University does not actually discuss the use of any state funding in its athletics department. Currently, UC Davis student fees fund 75 percent, or $18 million, of the total Intercollegiate Athletics budget. Students pay upwards of $600 a year to fund the athletics program.
So what are the real reasons for the cut? No one really seems to know.
Furthermore, the ICA budget has increased yearly. All of this adds up to the conclusion that state budget issues were not the actual reason for the cutting of four sports in 2010.
UC Davis’ ICA program has faced many changes in the 11 years since the move from Division II to Division I. Athletes and coaches have come and gone, there has been a chancellor change and the Aggies went from champions of Division II to bottom feeders in Division I.
Beyond their unwillingness to follow the principles, the administration has shown a tendency to block the quest for answers regarding past decisions. The lack of transparency is blatantly obvious in Katehi’s decision and explanation of the cutting of the sports.
The administration’s lack of transparency exposes the blatant disregard for honesty and straightforwardness shown by Katehi during her decision to cut UC Davis sports and is something that she should be held accountable for.
Furthermore, what is the purpose of this disregard to the principles and honesty if the results are subpar? Since the move to Division I, UC Davis has struggled greatly as evidenced by the 9-22 record for men’s basketball and the 5-7 record for football this year. Compare this to UC Davis’ Division II career, when it won six Director’s Cups, which are given to the top Division II university in the nation.
After the preponderance of information regarding the failures of the transition to Division I, we are left wondering why the administration would make promises it doesn’t keep. But more importantly, the lack of transparency that occurs in the administration’s decision-making process is concerning not only in regards to UC Davis athletics, but also in regards to the future actions of the administration.