Students to Vote on D-I Sports

Students may soon be voting on the fate of UCSD athletics, after A.S. Council approved the Division I Athletics Referendum last night with an overwhelming vote of 27-1-1. If passed, the referendum would raise student fees by $165 per student per quarter, grossing the $16 million necessary for the athletic teams to move to, and be competitive in, Division I.

Now that council has passed the measure, the referendum will move to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue for approval. After she approves the initiative, the referendum will move to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox and then to the UC Office of the President.     
The referendum will then move to a student vote in a special election that A.S. President Alyssa Wing said she hopes to hold in Winter Quarter 2012.

“It’s not A.S. [Council’s] job to say if we should or should not move to D-I,” Wing said. “What we should focus on is [whether] the language is appropriate for students to vote on. We have made changes [to the language of the referendum]. We are trying to cover all our grounds before we hit UCOP so that it is something we are confident will pass.”
Athletics Director Earl Edwards, who spoke at the council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30, said the move to Division I is a great opportunity for UCSD.

“It’s really encouraging to see that students really care about campus and society as a whole,” he said. “We would be in a conference with many of our sisters, like UCR, UCI, UCSB. They’re doing it the right way in the context of being student-athletes.”

In Spring Quarter 2010, A.S. Council hired an athletics consultant to evaluate the feasibility of a football team and moving to Division I.

The consultant advised council to pursue the move to Division I without adding a football team.

For this to occur, the absolute minimum increase needed for the move to D-I is $4.8 million, the consultant said, but a minimum $13 million is necessary in order to be competitive.

“We don’t want to be a university that is only in D-I but is not competitive,” Wing said. “We want to be able to provide scholarships [for] top-notch talent [that we] want to come to our campus. The number is a little higher than the projection, but that is to maintain our program and ensure that we don’t have to keep going back to students with more referendums.”

Of the $16 million revenue, approximately $5.5 million (34 percent) will go toward athletic scholarships. The rest will be divided among areas such as administrative operations and salaries, coach salaries and team operations.

Additionally, 29 percent of the fee will contribute to a return-to-aid, to help compensate students who are dependent on financial aid and not able to afford the fee increase.

“I don’t foresee the California budget changing dramatically in the next few years and we do have this opportunity to vote for D-I right now,” Wing said. “I would say that right now is the time to capitalize on it and agree on it.”

Last year, UCSD applied for a position in the Big West Division I conference, but was rejected in favor of the University of Hawaii.

Even if the referendum is passed in the winter election, the fee increase will not be initiated unless UCSD is invited to participate in the Big West conference.

The language of the referendum also ensures that the fee will only be collected starting up to one year prior to UCSD’s first scheduled Division I match and that the referendum will be void if UCSD has not received a bid from the Big West conference by 2014.

UCSD has been in Division II for over 10 years.

The initiative to move toward Division I began when 2009-10 A.S. President Utsav Gupta, then a Campuswide Senator, created the Football Feasibility Task Force in 2007.

At the Nov. 30 meeting,  some constituents spoke out against the move to Division I.

“Some will argue that it’s a short-term pain for a long-term gain, but that’s a decades-long proposition,” Sixth College senior and former Sixth College Senator John Condello said. “This means more referenda not only for the move to D-I, but also to fund the sport people actually pay for: football.”
Associate Vice President of Student Organizations Lynne Swerhone was strongly against the measure, and announced her resignation after council passed the referendum.

“Check your fucking privilege, you all have the time to be here,” Swerhone said. “The only reason I can be here is because I get paid. We are the 1 percent at UCSD. You are the 1 percent that is privileged to be here.”

Vice President of External Affairs Samer Naji said that he could no longer support Division I, though it had been a component of his platform while campaigning during elections season last year.

“I can no longer support that position,” Vice President of External Affairs Samer Naji said. “This has been a long and hard decision for me and it’s not easy to do. For the athletic community, I apologize, but for the students that cannot afford it, I stand behind you.”

With the referendum moving into the next stages of approval, it is closer to being put up for a student vote.

“I want to remind students that the biggest power that you have is to cast your vote and say whether or not you want your university to go in that direction,” Wing said. “Now we are faced with a decision, just like the movement from D-III to D-II.”

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