Back on the Ballot

    Riding on the results of a survey on last Spring Quarter’s A.S. election ballot, A.S. president Utsav Gupta said a referendum to create a student-funded UCSD football team is currently in the works. Gupta aims to have the referendum on this Spring Quarter’s student ballot.

    According to Gupta, the survey showed that students not only want a football team, but also are more than willing to pay for its creation.

    Asked if they would support the creation of a Division-II Intercollegiate Football team, 72.65 percent of the 5,174 students who voted in the election said ‘Yes,’ 17.75 percent voted no and 9.6 percent abstained.

    Along with assessing the student body’s interest, the survey asked how much students would be willing to pay in additional fees to support the creation of a football team. 35.59 percent of students said they were not willing to pay any money at all. The remaining students expressed — on average — that they would be willing to take on an extra $19.46 per quarter to create a Triton football program.

    Gupta said he has taken the current University of California budget crisis into consideration in planning the football referendum.

    “Things are tough, and you’re forced to prioritize,” Gupta said. “I think that if a football referendum can survive in this market, then it does show support within the student body. Sure, there’s more likelihood for it to fail than it probably would have three years ago, but I think that students can make value judgments as to where their money wants to go. This is not us forcing a fee on the student body — this is us asking students what they want.”

    Gupta said a UCSD football team could provide students with a necessary and missing component of the traditional college experience.

    “When people think of big schools, they think of football teams,” Gupta said. “We have a super majority saying that they would actually pay to support a team.”

    In researching the feasibility of a football team, Gupta worked with Vice Chancellors Steven Relyea and Penny Rue to come up with an estimated budget. He produced an estimated figure of $1 million to 2 million a year — a total that Gupta sees as compatible with what students are willing to pay, based on last spring’s survey.

    While Senior Associate Athletic Director Ken Grosse said he would support a UCSD football team, he also expressed concerns about its logistics.

    “There are all the start-up costs that we’d be looking at: the equipment, the additional people that are working here,” Grosse said. “We don’t even have room now to store what we need to. It’d be great to have a team, [but] I just don’t see it working.”

    UCSD currently plays at the NCAA Division-II level. Because Humboldt State University is the only other D-II school in California, the UCSD football team would have to travel to other states in order to play games — adding additional travel costs to basic program needs.

    “There are only a dozen D-II schools west of the Mississippi, so you’re talking about some pretty heavy travel costs,” Grosse said.

    Grosse added that in the past decade, only a few colleges have successfully created a football team. According to Grosse, these examples cannot be compared to UCSD, because two of the schools — the University of Connecticut and the University of South Florida —already ran powerhouse Division-I athletic programs beforehand, and had existing funds and facilities to support the new team.

    Another obstacle in a UCSD football team’s future would be Title IX, a national law created in 1972 that requires men and women’s athletic teams at the high-school and collegiate levels must remain in equal balance. As stipulated by Title IX, there must be an even number of male and female athletes at any one institution. This means that if UCSD were to add a men’s football team — which would require anywhere from 60 to 90 student athletes according to Grosse — the university would have to add the same number of female athletes or subtract from the men’s total.

    Grosse sees Title IX as an impossible obstacle.

    “We’re in compliance with Title IX right now,” Grosse said. “So if you add a football team, we’d have to do one of two things: You either make an equivalent addition on the women’s side or cut the equivalent on the men’s side. For how much football is going to cost, you’re talking about decimating the men’s program. At least four or five teams would have to go.”

    Gupta said he is aware of Title IX, but remains optimistic.

    “The idea that we’d want to cut men’s teams to make room for football is simply not true,” Gupta said. “What we’d be after is creating women’s teams.”

    Gupta does not currently include any such details in his planned referendum.

    In terms of home-game location, Gupta’ envisions the use of the Triton Track and Field Stadium.

    “The track and field was actually constructed with the foresight of allowing a regulation football field,” Gupta said. “All you’d have to do is get rid of the inner jogging track and make a small adjustment to the track, and you’d have a regulation football stadium.”

    Men’s track and field coach Tony Salerno said that adding a football team to the space would present several problems.

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian
    Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    “The stadium is not configured for football, so there’s no goalposts or a scoreboard,” Salerno said. “We have just over 100 [athletes] in track. Facility issues would be complex.”

    If students pass the referendum this Spring Quarter, Gupta believes that the football team could officially begin play by Fall Quarter of 2011.

    “It would take time to get coaches, to start training players and recruiting,” Gupta said. “I think that that would take about a year to do.”

    Readers can contact Jake Blanc at [email protected].

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