On Wednesday, Jan. 27, UCSD Associated Students unanimously approved a motion to put Division I status up to a campus-wide vote. If approved, it’s important to know what Division I would not do: there are no upcoming plans for a football team, no guarantee of an increase in our school’s national ranking, and most importantly, no quick “fix” for any perceived problems of campus culture.
Provided the motion passes through the necessary steps, an additional $65 fee would be added to the existing $129 Intercollegiate Athletics Association fee beginning in the quarter that our school is approved and invited into the Big West Conference. The fee would increase in subsequent quarters, and level out at $289.38.* If UCSD does not get a bid for the Big West Conference in two years, the fee becomes void.
The motion would require a majority ballot cast in favor of D-I, and at least 20 percent of the entire student body to vote on the measure for it to pass. If it passes on the ballot, the proposal will be sent to the NCAA for approval and official invitation into the Big West Conference, where we could compete alongside schools such as UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and, Cal State Fullerton. We would not, however, be competing in PAC 12, the conference with UCLA, USC, and Berkeley.
On top of that, UCSD won’t be adding a football team anytime soon says AS President Dominick Suvonnasupa. Considering other UC schools that have undergone a similar transition — moving to D-I without adding a football team (such as UCI, UCR, and UCSB) — will D-I really lead to strong school spirit and athletics? Even if we are accepted to the Big West Conference, will we be successful?
What about ranking and alumni investment? Those are fairly simple to quantify — U.S News does not include sports in their ranking criteria, so D-I would have no direct effect on our school’s national ranking.
While D-I may increase alumni involvement, according to the Con Argument of the 2012 Referendum, “in 2006, only 19 of 119 D-I programs in the country made money.” The Union Tribune reported that UCSD’s 2013-14 athletics budget was $8.75 million, while UCI’s was $15.9 million. According to the Knight Commission, an independent commission that gathers academic and athletic spending data, UCI spent $45,958 per athlete, yet only $25,670 per student academically. If the intention is to assume that we’re going to be gaining some type of investment from this switch, how long will that take and are we willing to just assume that it will happen at all?
“[D-I will] help us to focus on one of the main focuses for the campus, and that is that the Chancellor wants the campus to be more student-centered and I can’t think of any activity or event like athletics that brings the university together and does a lot of different things for students,” said Athletic Director Earl Edwards on The Mighty 1090 radio show.
Division I sports will not “fix” our campus culture. We concede — Division I might increase our brand recognition. But no matter how hard administration attempts to create campus culture from the top down, this is not a magical administrative cure for UCSD’s campus culture ills.
In fact, dare we say, the normally discussed problems with UCSD campus life (it’s painful to have to write “UC Socially Dead”) aren’t really problems. There are clubs on campus. Greek Life exists. Let’s not be coy, there are definitely social events on the weekends. We don’t have TGIF celebrations sponsored by Miller Beer anymore like in 1985, but we have a social campus.
We’re not vehemently against going D-I — but let’s be real about the implications of that decision. It’s not going to solve any problems of campus culture, nor is it going to make us UCLA.
*May 12th, 2016: This article was updated to reflect the current referendum language from $165 to $289.38.