The AS Special Election is upon us to determine the fate of UCSD Athletics, and with that, the fate of UCSD, since a Division I move can strengthen our campus unity, advance our pursuit of excellence, and increase alumni engagement.
So often on this campus, students are divided, not only by major, but by college as well. From the first-day freshman step foot on campus, they are split up, doing orientation only with their home college, competing against one another at a dance. Our multi-college system is similar to that of Yale’s; however, Yale has the school spirit and Division I athletics to transcend these college divisions. Over summer and winter break, while my friends who attend UCSD are chatting about Muir versus Warren, my two friends, from Yale, only talk about the number of days before Yale takes down Harvard for whichever sport is in season at the time. In fact, I have never once heard them compare the colleges they are a part of.
As a student at UCSD, the only times I have ever heard similar remarks of university pride from fellow students is when our Men’s Water Polo Team, which already competes at a Division I level, was facing UCLA in the semifinals last year. It is through these athletic sports that our university is united, contending against other peer universities. Some argue that we have low turnouts at our sports, making a move to Division I irrelevant in terms of creating this unity. However, although it is likely that student turnout will go up as UCSD begins to compete against like institutions, students don’t need to physically attend these games to benefit from the unifying effect. When someone comments on the Tritons beating the Bruins the other night, the student won’t respond about how they didn’t attend; rather, the student will acknowledge that their home team excelled.
There is no doubt that, as a university whose mission is to be a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public institution, we have been excelling. According to Washington Monthly, as a national university, we have jumped from 8th to 1st in the past 10 years. However, it is also at this time that we focus on the student-centered portion of our mission. Division I is the pathway to achieving this goal. Our school is often critically assessed for the campus life portion, not having enough of a “social life” or “college experience”. With a larger focus on athletic events, we are able to overcome these stigmas. Division I is the unifying force we need to resolve what some perceive to be our “socially dead” culture.
Our student population has outgrown the size and reach of Division II. Division II is intended for smaller schools, with smaller facilities. In the NCAA Recruitment Facts report, the average number of students at a Division II university was 4,200, compared to 12,900 students at Division I universities. With a student base of now over 30,000, it is essential that our school and its facilities moves into a more fitting category. Just as in 1999 with the referendum that passed to build RIMAC, we must be the next generation of students willing to make this move to Division I. Without RIMAC, our school would still rely on Main Gym, that has a max capacity of 1,600 students, for all of our sporting events, athletic training, and recreation.
Yes, there is a student fee increase associated with such a move. But, just as students before us paid student fees to put in RIMAC and Price Center, it is our turn to leave a lasting legacy, to pave the way for Division I sports, so that our university can continue to grow, and not become stagnant. It is our turn to contribute to what our founders envisioned, one of the world’s most influential public institutions.
There is no doubt that alumni engagement at any university is essential, as it allows students to network and maintain connections. Imagine how many alumni will be drawn back to the campus to watch basketball games during March Madness, and the types of networking opportunities this will create. Alumni engagement will also increase our probability of gaining more funding and sponsorships across the campus, not just for athletic funding. UCLA has had a sponsorship with Adidas for over 15 years not only for licensing, also offering internships to UCLA students. With connections being so important in today’s world, we cannot overlook our alumni and their involvement.
It is our turn to leave the lasting legacy that will allow our university to grow. We are Tritons, and as Tritons, we are invested in our ability to excel as an institution. Division I is how we will get there.
Christina Miller is a currently an undergraduate student at UC San Diego.