Christina Miller: What Division 1 Can Really Do for UCSD

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.

7 Comments

  1. Just a thought: it’d help to make the links easier to find. Maybe blue? I was looking for the link to the site to vote, so it’d also be good to link it so we can vote after reading your article! Thanks for your input.

    • Christina Miller May 18, 2016 at 9:59 am

      Thanks for your feedback. In order to vote, students just need to log into tritonlink.ucsd.edu, click on the “Vote on the ICA Fee Referendum” hyperlink, and then click on the voting tab! Here’s a link to the elections homepage: https://academic.ucsd.edu/elections/

    • Christina, I think that tbb was referring to the layout of the website as a whole, where hyperlinks are italicized and underlined, making them feel more like points of emphasis than hyperlinks.

      Although I agree that hyperlinks are not extremely noticeable, I also think them being a different color is distracting. Maybe having a “relevant links” section at the bottom of all articles is a good compromise.

  2. Lol I think you are taking the importance of d1 athletics way out of proportion. Even if you make the jump to D1, UCSD will only be at the bottom of the barrel. In terms of recruitment, they will not have the adequate staff or facilities to compete with other schools of the same academic caliber that have a been a constant presence within the NCAA. In this day and age, where student debt is at an all time high, why would you think to increase that just because of a jump to D1? It would only actively benefit the athletes while putting a bigger strain on the school and its 30000 students. Also the entire March Madness situation is a complete exaggeration as it would literally take years and ungodly amount of money to even reach that level, so forget about alumni involvement right now. Research and academic programs are what drove them here in the first place, so focus on that before you focus on athletic programs. Also you provided no statistics on how many UCLA students are provided internships by Adidas when compared to the national average, so you could very well be making this up.

    • I agree with you, James, that the argument regarding internships resulting from D1 was rather weak. In fact, according to LinkedIn, it seems that more UCSD alum are hired at adidas based companies than their UCLA counterparts. [1][2]

      However, I do think that the author’s arguments should not be discarded simply because the effects of going D1 will not be instantaneous. It will be a lot of work to become a University with a prominent sports program. Prominent or not, however, I think that simply being able to discuss how we perform against our fellow UCs will be a strong bonding point. Not only that, but it might allow students to become enthralled in the larger UC-system politics that are so interesting and important to us.

      But you do have a good point. Students voting YES on the referendum should be aware that the changes they are voting for will not have prominent effects until several years from now.

      1. https://www.linkedin.com/edu/alumni?id=17954&facets=&keyword=adidas&dateType=attended&startYear=&endYear=&incNoDates=true&start=0&count=10&filters=on&trk=nav_responsive_sub_nav_find_alumni

      2. https://www.linkedin.com/edu/alumni?id=17950&facets=&keyword=adidas&dateType=attended&startYear=&endYear=&incNoDates=true&start=0&count=10&filters=on&trk=edu-up-nav-menu-alumni

    • Christina Miller May 19, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      I’m glad to hear some of your perspectives on the move to D1.

      It’s true that other highly academic schools have been competing and recruiting in D1 for much longer than we have; however, if we don’t make the move now, we will never be able to catch up with them. You don’t wait for someone to cross the finish line before you consider starting.

      In regards to student debt, I agree it is high. However, 29% of the fee increase is used for return to aid for the university as a whole, and the largest portion of these student fees is going directly to athletic scholarships, which eleviate debt as well. One of my coworkers is an athlete, and I will never understand how he manages to balance everything. He is also an engineer, works at the same place as me, and attends practice daily, yet I’m fairly certain he outperforms me academically and athletically, to say the least. If athletes are contributing directly to our school’s image, we should support them in return. Even if an athlete receives a full tuition scholarship, they would be making more if they were working part time, for all of the hours that they dedicate. Additionally, in the case that an athlete receives a full athletic scholarship to attend the school, all other financial aid they would have received is returned to the pot and given to other students in need.

      In terms of alumni engagement, currently alumni that are returning for existing “research and academic programs”, are making up a very small portion of our donations. “Less than 5% of the private donations UC San Diego secured last year came from alumni. The average for colleges nationwide was 28.3%.” With these statistics, it’s impossible to agree that what initially drove them here is making them come back.

      http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0516-ucsd-fundraising-20160516-story.html

      In response to the adidas sponsorship program, the internships were guaranteed in the language of their sponsorship. And this isn’t an anomaly just for UCLA.

      At Arizona State University, which also competes at a Division I level, here’s specifically what their adidas sponsorship included in terms of internships: “adidas will also offer an internship program to up to 12 ASU students studying law, business, public programs, journalism and various undergraduate programs.”

      Source: http://www.thesundevils.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=209810820

      Here are a few other partnership programs that include internships:

      http://www.elevenwarriors.com/ohio-state-football/2016/01/66453/how-ohio-states-15-year-252-million-contract-with-nike-measures-up-to-michigan-texas-deals

      http://www.mlive.com/wolverines/index.ssf/2015/07/nike_michigan.html

  3. What a crock. Competitive sports are like art and only valuable to the individual who sees them as such. In reality however, they are completely useless except for training soldiers which is obviously not the case in the modern world. So it does not matter what incentives you receive because at the end of the day, sports provide no viable path to the most important parts of education; #1 improved critical thinking ability to help you through life and #2 improved odds of finding gainful employment.

    I say, if sports folks want more sports, make them pay for it themselves. Do no burden those who dont want it with increased fees if they are not going to participate.

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