Just as it is important to hold campus officials accountable for their actions, the Editorial Board believes it is equally important to give credit where credit is due. In this case, we would like to acknowledge the men’s basketball team, under head coach Jim Les, which currently has a record of 14-4 and is gearing up to play in its second nationally-televised game of the year. ESPN even predicts the Aggies will go as far as to make this year’s NCAA Tournament, March Madness.
Last year, the team went 9-22, one of the lousiest records in program history. The team finished ninth in the nine-team Big West, ensuring that it would be the only school in the conference uninvited to the 2013-14 Big West tournament.
At the end of the last season, Les’s salary doubled from $125,000 to around $250,000, which perplexed many of us at The Aggie. How could a coach with one of the worst records in school history claim over $125,000 from an athletics department already charging its students more than any other student body in the UC system? The same athletics department that recently cut four sports in order to increase the funding for the men’s basketball and football teams.
Nevertheless, Les has done a stellar job so far this season. The team, led by senior Corey Hawkins, who is on the top-10 scoring list in the country this year, has brought national exposure to the UC Davis campus. Throughout this season, the team has drawn large, feverish crowds to The Pavillion, showcasing the academic and athletic promise of UC Davis to future recruits and aspiring students. There is actual, broad enthusiasm toward a sports team here at the university, something lacking in recent years. We hope that the team’s recent rise to prominence continues to excite and inspire the Davis community, and we thank Les for his work so far this season.
More importantly, we hope that increased national exposure can lead to more media deals and sponsorships, allowing the athletics department greater financial flexibility and maybe even the opportunity to reinstate the teams cut in 2010. UC Davis students should not shoulder a larger financial burden for their athletics department than students at UCLA, which has an exponentially larger athletics budget.
Inadvertently, the team’s success this year could have major positive implications for the student body and community. We hope that athletic director Terry Tumey steps up to the plate and knocks one out for the student body, reversing the mentality of a money-driven athletics department. In the meantime, good luck to Coach Les, and we look forward to see your team playing come late March.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu