Move to Division I athletics would hurt school’s academics

    With March Madness sweeping college campuses across the nation, UCSD students might feel a bit left out of the festivities. While many students chalk up their brackets and, like this writer, watch their matchup of Stanford vs. Gonzaga final go down in flames, one has to wonder what it would be like to attend a Division I school with an actual chance in the basketball tournament, or a school that went to a bowl game last year. After the somewhat successful move to Division II in 2000, some students and certainly the athletic department have questioned repeatedly why UCSD persists in staying at the margins of national collegiate athletics.

    The prospect of some actual school spirit on this largely apathetic campus is enough of a reason to contemplate breaking with UCSD policy and start granting athletic scholarships along with beginning a move to Division I. The External Relations department privately believes that alumni donations will never reach the levels of other public schools like Berkeley or Michigan until UCSD has a viable Division I football or basketball team. But what exactly are the chances that we might move to Division I, pick up a football team and/or offer athletic scholarships? And what consequences would such a move have?

    Earl Edwards, athletic director at UCSD, has stated that “the likelihood of [football] is between zero and never,” mostly because the financial demands of a football program would be enormous, not to mention that Title IX would require that degree of extra funding to be doubled to match womens’ sports. But what about athletic scholarships? UCSD is one of very few Division II schools to not offer scholarships. Rules coming into effect in 2005-06 will require Division II schools to spend $250,000 on scholarships, but UCSD has been granted an exemption. The problem would be compounded by an order of magnitude if the school ever chose to go to Division I, which makes it unlikely that UCSD could go to Division I without another exemption in scholarship rules.

    And this is where the real question really comes in. To come close to participating in March Madness, or to even attract any viable degree of nationally recognized athletics, UCSD would have to offer athletic scholarships. And to do so, this writer believes, would be a travesty, contravening the founding principles of this academic institution and subscribing to a societal stereotype that links the greater purpose of higher education with the basest instincts of blood-thirsty, gladiatorial combat that taint university education across the United States.

    The fundamental problem with Division I athletics, and athletic scholarships in particular, is that college athletics in the United States form an amateur league with an effective salary cap (college tuition and costs) that feeds to professional athletics in the place of a viable minor league. As a result, instead of a purely competitive marketplace for desirable athletes based on money (like a real minor league), the collegiate system is rooted in a cesspool of black market activity, because in some way, that’s the only currency schools have to bid on except their reputations, of which UCSD has none in Division I. As Mark Starr of Newsweek points out, “Now, school for scandal is an appropriate headline for America’s collegiate basketball and football programs. Baptist schools, Catholic schools, state schools, private schools — none is immune. Scandal is hardly new to college sports, but the breadth of offenses over the past couple of years is mind-boggling. Hindering police investigations of murder, rape allegations, strip-club frolics, boozing with underage students, illegal payments to players, sex parties for recruits, academic fraud, academic fraud, academic fraud.”

    This is not a track record of minor individual offenses. It is a track record (Baylor, Colorado, UCLA, Georgia, Iowa State, Texas Tech) of an endemic problem in Division I athletics that UCSD should have no part in, regardless of the benefits to school spirit at our school, on moral grounds and on the grounds of refusing to compromise our academic program. A firm stand against athletic scholarships at UCSD in contrast to the rest of Division II schools would reinforce the fact that the only incentive that athletes have to come to UCSD is to study here.

    Some may say that this will sacrifice school spirit. Regardless of scandal, what is there to be proud of that some guy from your school can shoot more baskets, or hit the ball further, than a lot of other people? How does that benefit society in any way, except inspiring a testosterone-induced frenzy of glee that bears a remarkable resemblance to throwing the Christians to the lions?

    UCSD’s leading science, engineering, humanities and social science research and teaching is something to be proud of: It produces more mature young adults, it raises the living standards of our society, it prolongs people’s lives in a direct way and it examines conflict toward the greater goal of peace.

    These are things to be proud of that all students can directly participate in through research and learning, and are the primary activities of this institution. For four years, this writer has lamented the dearth of school spirit, the seeming emptiness of the walkways and paths of this school. Coming closer to graduation, he has realized that the quiet pride of UCSD students and academics in what this institution does for the material well-being, the intellectual progress and the further security of this world, rather than the controlled riots of collegiate athletics (or uncontrolled riots, as Ohio State shows), is a more morally tenable means of school spirit. That is nothing to be lamented.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal