I would like to take a moment to address a campus issue that is extremely important to me: the upcoming vote to move our athletics program into the NCAA Division I. I write this with firm appreciation and awareness that your decision is a personal one and that you will be living with the change as opposed to my opining from the bleachers. That being said, I want to press upon you that a successful jump into Division I would be a huge win both in the short term for you as UCSD students and in the long term for you as soon-to-be UCSD alums.
For some of you, the possibility of a Tritons March Madness berth is reason enough to cast your vote next week. However, even for those of you not interested in sports, helping UCSD become a Division-I school will affect you directly. A Division-I athletics program broadens the campus experience, bringing with it increased campus pride, a healthy rivalry with neighboring schools and a greater sense of belonging in the community — even when it is a virtual one.
Moreover, a move to Division I would help upgrade UCSD’s visibility and stature. As the CEO of a firm that advises media and technology companies, I know firsthand that brand is everything. A successful brand has incredible benefits: It can increase a company’s earning potential and scale, and help it gain traction in the competitive marketplace.
UCSD is a brand. By voting to associate us with NCAA Division-I sports — one of the biggest draws for college admissions — you will be elevating UCSD in the eyes of prospective students, and help to bring in the best new academic talent. Remember, these students will be the future of your alumni network.
The direct benefits you reap from a bolstered UCSD brand do not end there. We all know first-hand the level of our academic excellence. The prestige that comes with an NCAA Division-I sports program will help increase awareness of UCSD’s excellence to the broader community, which will in turn give you a leg up when it comes time to show your resume to potential employers.
Division-I athletics at UCSD will bring profound short-term and long term gains for you and for the university as a whole. Please don’t pass up this chance to make our great school even better. As Wayne Gretsky famously said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Next week you have a real shot at shaping the future of your school. I urge you to take it. Vote to make UCSD an NCAA Division-I school.
Aryeh B. Bourkoff, ‘96 | Founder and CEO of LionTree, LLC
The purveyors of the trickle-down benefit theory of intercollegiate athletics would have you believe in the same kind of magical thinking that lures people into buying lottery tickets: a fanciful promise of fame and fortune that any reality-based analysis demonstrates to be an exceedingly poor investment decision. This is coupled with the time-honored psychological tactic of a “phased implementation”; the superficially less expensive decision of the present is easier because it forever mortgages the finances of future generations of students. Further appeasement of the unsure is accomplished by the diversionary “no football” ploy.
Study after study has shown that the true beneficiaries of the enormous resources dumped into sports departments are almost exclusively those departments themselves, the vast majority of which nevertheless run significant deficits. The over $9 million in annual ICA fees currently extracted from students subsidizes an enterprise in which a mere 2 percent of undergraduates are athletes, and yet now a substantially larger financial burden is justified with the mythical claim that it will somehow tangentially improve everyone’s job prospects upon graduation (because employers and grad schools care not about academic qualifications, but rather what teams made it to which finals). It’s hardly a coincidence that those marketing the imposition of even more fees will also most directly benefit when this new windfall is funneled into their coffers and wallets.
In its first 50 years, UC San Diego has grown to be an enviable academic powerhouse, a reputation built upon the combination of outstanding students and first-rate research. This excellence is a genuine source of pride and school spirit that is earned, not purchased. In a country where the highest paid state officials are overwhelmingly college coaches, is the model of an expansive athletic empire really one we want to emulate, or do we stay true to what has, over the past half-century, made us all unequivocally unique and exceptional among our peers? A vote for Division I is a vote for a costly conformity that will now and always tax the many to benefit an elite few.
David J. Hutches, ‘93 | Chief Technology Officer and Director, Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego