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Davis, California

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Guest: Dear Chancellor May — It’s time for ICA to stop playing games with student fees


Student fees continue to pay for sports that UC Davis doesn’t offer anymore

Dear Chancellor Gary May,

The news that UC Davis will once again offer a 15th women’s intercollegiate sport is welcome indeed. But there’s a history that must inform what ultimately will be your decision on which sport to add, why and whether or not that’s the end of it. Consider the following:

Since the early 1990s, the students of UC Davis have voluntarily contributed over $200 million to fund their Intercollegiate Athletics Program (ICA). Due to their Regent-approved fee initiatives, each undergraduate now pays over $700 per year, which adds up to well over $20 million per year — just for ICA alone. These fees cover fully two-thirds of ICA’s budget and are equivalent to a half-billion dollar endowment.


UC Davis student fees alongside all other sources of ICA program revenue for FY15-16, according to the university’s report to the NCAA.

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a more important “donor” to ICA than the students themselves. But that endowment didn’t come free for nothing. It came with conditions to which the UC Regents agreed. Yet somehow from 2009 until 2016, Linda Katehi, when she was forced to resign, didn’t give a damn about those conditions and even did her best to get rid of them. Why? Because, as one can glean from her own “dossier,” the only use Katehi ever had for Aggie sports was helping her enhance the university’s brand — and her own stature in the process. She wanted to get UC Davis football and men’s basketball games on TV, and she didn’t much care how.

Now, if it were her money or if the students’ money didn’t come with conditions, then whatever — that’s pretty much what just about every other school in NCAA D1 does. But at UC Davis, it is not her money, and the students’ money did come with conditions. And so as long as fees are collected in their names, it matters what those initiatives say, what the students understood and intended when they were passed and what the Regents agreed to. And, if I may remind you, when she breached the Campus Expansion Initiative (CEI) by eliminating four ICA sports in 2010, it was not only based on a bare-faced lie, but it also involved the confirmed misuse of $3 million of Student Activities and Services Initiative (SASI) fees.

I need to bring to your attention that ICA’s “FAQ” on this subject is both disingenuous and misleading. By omission it fails to acknowledge that, for their $20 million per year, the students are entitled to exactly the ICA program they voted for — no more and no less.  By omission it fails to include a selection criterion reflecting the university’s obligation to provide the 27 sports students have been paying for all this time — while only getting 23. By omission it fails explain that, when four sports were cut in 2010, the $1.8 million supposedly “saved” was instead doled out to the remaining sports with nearly half going to just two (can you guess which two?).  

If the Donner family has to live with its legacy, then how come ICA gets a hall pass?  Instead, ICA is bending over backwards to assure the donors to those other sports that their provincial interests won’t be harmed because this new women’s sport will be expected to pay for itself. Moreover, ICA asserts that it’s faultless. Sure it is — except for the fact that it was its own kowtowing recommendation in 2010 that led to the elimination of sports to begin with. And that by cutting sports, ICA would blow forever the university’s right to claim it was complying with Title IX under Prong 2 (a demonstrated history of adding sports). Or that with its five AD’s in the last eight years, ICA hasn’t been meeting its legal obligation concerning Title IX since 2012-13. And that every year ICA manages to spend over $6 million (fully 20 percent of its $30 million budget) to administer 23 sports, which is more than it costs Cal Poly and Sac State combined to administer all 41 of their sports — including two football teams. And that ICA pays the men’s basketball coach almost as much as the Regents pay you to run the entire university because no one else would take the job for less.

Very soon it will be up to you — and thereafter down to you. Please do not miss this opportunity to show us who you are and that you are cut from different cloth than your predecessor. Publicly vow to stop taking those Regent-approved fee initiatives for granted and start insisting that they be fully respected — or stop collecting the $20 million per year collected for ICA in their names. Recognize the university’s obligation to unconditionally restore sports, starting with women’s rowing and followed in successive years by men’s swimming and the rest.  Show UC Davis students how to own up to mistakes and set about responsibly fixing them.


Paul Medved graduated from UC Davis in 1978 with a B.S. in civil engineering. He has worked in transportation engineering in the Bay Area and Asia for nearly 40 years, now serving as the project manager of the BART Warm Springs Extension project.



Written by: Paul Medved

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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