This Motley Kickoff Won’t End in a Touchdown

Stefany Chen/Guardian
Stefany Chen/Guardian

It’s no secret that we the students — bio-book worms, co-op art freaks and sorority sisters for all — stand disunited. Aside from annual Sun God Festival sweaty elbow rubs and starved solidarity in the never-ending Goody’s burrito line, there isn’t much reason for all of us to hang out on a Friday night.

A.S. President Utsav Gupta wants to fix end UCSD’s loner legacy, and he thinks he’s got just the pill: a Triton football team.

While the prospect of tomorrow’s aerospace engineers and baristas alike gathering ‘round for a pregame tailgate holds a certain old-school collegiate charm, there’s one little detail in particular we can’t ignore, at least for now: those trident-emblazoned helmets and the myriad of costs that go along with them.

Gupta is convinced otherwise. He estimates that creating a Division-II football team could cost as little as $1 million annually (no more than the total price we pay to keep UC President Mark G. Yudof and the campus loop shuttle around).

After last spring’s A.S. election — which included a poll asking students polled students whether they’d support the creation of a football team, and how much they’d pay for it — Gupta is also sure that most of the student body is on board, too. Only problem with those statistics — and the inevitable meager turnout to vote on the football referendum — is that less than a quarter of the student body could even be bothered to vote. True, a 73-percent majority of those spirited few did vote in football’s favor — but the poll question, of course, gave no specifics as to how the hypothetical team would come to reality.

The survey went on to reveal that over 35 percent of students wouldn’t be willing to pay a cent for a football program. Which should be a major red flag, considering that long before hopping in the pickup and cracking open a pregame Bud Light, we’d have to open our wallets pretty wide — certainly wider than that impossibly undershot $1 million figure might necessitate. UCLA, for comparison’s sake, spent $16 million on football in 2004 — and a scoreboard alone runs for about $500,000.

Gupta might not know exactly how pricey a football program would be, but he can’t deny it would be a huge blow for any hurting budget. Though the details of his football referendum—which he plans to complete by this spring’s A.S. election — aren’t yet public, making ours a school of pom-poms and Friday night lights wouldn’t be nearly as cheap or simple a task as some (well, mostly Gupta) would like to believe.

He envisions transforming our current track and field and cross-country facility to host football games in its spare time. But just throwing a couple goal posts around the track wouldn’t solve the field issue: With over 140 student runners already using the facility, there isn’t nearly enough space to accommodate a 60- to 70-person football team — not to mention in the locker room, which would get real cozy real fast.

Another big one? Under Title IX, a national law in place since 1972, there must be an equal number of male and female athletes at every high school and college. Though Gupta has said he’d opt to add more women to our program, he hasn’t figured this cost into the final price tag. Ultimately, additional female players would up the referendum fee — and with the devastating academic cuts we’re facing, now isn’t the time to be increasing our fees for frills.

Even if money were no object and Gupta’s just-add-water plan were free of gaping holes in logic, a Division-II football team, would have one sole competitor in all of California: Humboldt State University. Their team, the Lumberjacks, has a mighty four home games scheduled for this year; the rest, naturally, are out of state. After a few snoozeworthy Lumberjack-Triton face-offs, our team, too, would be forced to jet across the country. We can just see the TritonLink bill now.

By no means would we be able to smear paint across our cheeks and hop over to SDSU on a Friday night to show them what we’re made of. Supporting the Tritons would more likely require hopping on a Boeing 757 to Dixie State — unless anyone’s down for another road trip to Utah.

Gupta says that when you think of big schools, you think football — which, in the case of UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC, might be true. But those schools have ancient programs whose finances were built into the system long ago. A hastily concocted Division-II football team wouldn’t edge us closer to their prestige; it would simply be interpreted as a poorly conceived, transparent catch-up effort to overshadow our nerdier strengths.

Considering the $234 yearly hike in campus athletic fees — voted on by students in a Winter Quarter 2007 referendum — that doubled our annual sports budget to $3.5 million, it’s clear that UCSD values athletics. Yet a more reasonable first move than declaring the second coming of UCSD football, and asking students for even more money, would be to set our sights onto making the jump to Division-I.

This, too, would be a costly move. But it makes far more sense to invest in already-successful teams than to roll the dice on a nonexistent one. Our 1968 foray into the football arena resulted in seven consecutive losses and no wins. We pulled the plug that year before embarrassing ourselves any further — and if forty years have made us any wiser, we’ll keep doing what we do best.

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