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UC Davis students protest anticipated sports team cuts
Several hundred student athletes and their supporters marched across UC Davis on Friday, trying to save four or five men’s and women’s teams from the budget ax.
It’s not clear exactly which teams are on the chopping block, but members of the rowing, swimming and diving, and water polo teams are among those feeling the heat.
“I’ve heard we’re being cut because of our lack of revenue, but we’re students first, athletes second,” said Robyn Bryson, one of 45 rowers.
Chanting “UC Don’t Cut Me!” and “Save Our Sports!” the students took their case to the administration at Mrak Hall and Hickey Gym, campus home of Athletics Director Greg Warzecka.
To save $2.4 million, about 12 of UC Davis’ 27 teams have been reviewed for possible elimination, Warzecka said Friday.
“The campus has made great progress in identifying numerous financial remedies that could save a lot of sports, and it’s hopeful that only four or five might be discontinued,” Warzecka told The Bee.
“It’s a tough time. … We’re all trying to do the best we can to make the right decisions.”
The teams marked for elimination could be announced in the next 10 days, Warzecka said. “They will be able to move into our club sports program that currently includes over 30 teams.”
About a dozen factors will be considered, including gender equity and compliance with Title IX regulations, conference affiliation and budgetary considerations, Warzecka said.
The school has 15 protected sports – six men’s teams and nine women’s teams – that will not be cut because of their Big West Conference affiliation, Warzecka said. Those include men’s basketball, baseball, soccer, outdoor track, cross country and golf.
Also safe are women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball, outdoor track, cross country, golf, tennis and water polo, he said.
The football team was reviewed “and at this point we feel it’s a tradition at UC Davis and one of the cornerstones of the university’s athletic program.” Warzecka said.
“We are going to have trouble returning the athletics program to fiscal solvency unless other revenue is generated through corporate sponsorships, fundraising and ticket sales,” Warzecka said.
Thursday night, the student senate unanimously passed a resolution asking the university to give all the teams one year to find alternative ways to balance their budgets, said swimmer and diver Matt Herman.
As of March 30, more than 2,000 of the campus’s 32,153 students had signed a petition backing the continuation of all teams, Herman said.
The student athletes said they will finance their own teams through donations. “We need a chance to raise our own money,” said swimmer and water polo player Heidi Kucera.
But Warzecka said short-term fundraising “just continues the program in a precarious way year after year without any permanent allocation of resources.”
If a team’s fundraising falls short and it doesn’t come up with enough money to pay its own way, “we start getting into a deficit situation once again,” he said, and the remaining sports could suffer.
The teams’ annual budgets – which include scholarships, coaches’ salaries and benefits and operating expenses for meals, hotels and equipment – each range from well over $100,000 to $1 million, Warzecka said.
UC Irvine, California State University, Northridge, and California State University, Bakersfield, have already dropped several sports, including men’s and women’s swimming, Warzecka said.
But the UC Davis students are fighting hard to keep that from happening.
“We represent the university as wonderful ambassadors,” Herman said. “If swimming’s cut, I can’t stay here because I’m not happy without swimming.”
By Stephen Magagnini