Watson proposes athletic scholarships

UCSD student-athletes would be eligible to receive financial assistance in two years under a new scholarship proposal being considered by university administrators. The grants-in-aid, mandated by the NCAA, would provide approximately $500 annually to each of the university’s 600 athletes.

Billy Wong
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After the university moved from NCAA Division III to Division II in 2000, the NCAA changed its regulations, making previously optional athletic scholarships a requirement. The new rules mandated that each institution must offer a minimum of $250,000 no later than fall 2005. While UCSD has received a waiver from such policies for this year, there is no guarantee that it can obtain one in 2006-07.

The proposal for scholarships provides for a maximum of $300,000 in campus registration fee funds for athletes. Initially, the funds would be provided from savings and reserves, and permanent funding would gradually be provided by growth in student enrollment. The plan states that the expenditure commitment will not impact annual allocations of permanent and temporary funding to the Registration Fee Advisory Committee. However, there is no guarantee at this point as to which student programs will be affected by the new plan.

“The Registration Fee Committee annually reviews a large number of budget proposals and recommends those considered to be of highest priority and greatest benefit to students,” said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson, the primary author of the plan. “It is therefore not possible to state which particular programs would or would not be funded by the funds in question.”

A.S. leaders have backed the plan.

“This is an investment into the future of our campus,” A.S. Commissioner of Athletics Bryce Warwick stated in an e-mail. “I think this is a very well-designed and solid way for UCSD to appreciate the efforts of its student-athletes and to take another step toward bolstering an athletic program that has shown tremendous results and has been a growing positive influence on the campus. The plan will help improve our teams, and better teams are easier to promote.”

The plan would be implemented anywhere from 12 to 24 months after its approval, according to Watson. Authors and sponsors of the plan, including the department of athletics and student affairs, are seeking endorsement by the faculty Academic Senate as a prerequisite for submission to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox for approval and adoption.

“The proposal to use registration fee funds to provide the foundation funding for the student-athlete grants-in-aid is made in the belief that such an expenditure should be a high priority because of the major positive impacts it will have on student life and school spirit at UCSD,” Watson stated in an e-mail.

UCSD Athletics Director Earl W. Edwards said that the proposal is backed by his department as well as those who work with athletes because it is based on what he calls a “democratic distribution” model that awards the same amount of money to all athletes, male and female.

“Our philosophy is to treat all athletes the same, not necessarily based on athletic ability,” Edwards said. “The grants-in-aid are to enhance athletic participation.”

Warwick said the athletes like the idea as well, with members of the Triton Athletic Council voicing their approval.

“The ‘democratic distribution’ really fits with the tradition of athletics at UCSD and the athletes appreciate the effort to alleviate some of their financial burden, since so many of their hours are being spent on representing their university,” Warwick said.

Former A.S. President and A.S. Council representative to RFAC Jenn Pae advocated the plan based on the academic success of student-athletes.

“I am a huge proponent of this plan,” Pae said. “We, as a university, need to support our student-athletes. They have higher graduation rates and grade point averages than the average student, as well as represent our university in athletic competitions throughout the conference.”

Athletes would need to maintain certain academic standards to be eligible for the award. To receive the scholarships, continuing students would be required to have a cumulative GPA of 2.50 or higher, with successful completion of 12 units per quarter and 36 units in the previous academic year.

UCSD is the only school of 285 in Division II that does not currently offer any athletic scholarships.

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