Is Division 1 Worth the Cost?


Madeline Park

The issue of UCSD’s move to Division I still faces polarized views from the students. With the time and money that it will take, are we making the right decision?

Both students and faculty have embraced the announcement of UC San Diego’s move into Division-I sports and the Big West Conference with open arms. Shortly after the update was announced, the news quickly made its way through the student body — even appearing on the Facebook meme page — and UCSD sports has experienced a sudden buzz of interest.

Beginning with a student-initiated petition — with around 8,828 students signing it — UCSD began its journey to Division I in 2016. This petition represented a 70-percent approval rate for the move and only gained momentum from there. After the petition, a referendum was held in which faculty members were given the chance to vote on the move. This once again passed with flying colors. On top of this, the Big West Conference had been expressing an interest in taking UCSD “under its wing” for the past few years (despite some slight complications with initially rejecting us). Everything seemed to work out perfectly.

However, despite the promise that Division I brings, UCSD still remains a Division-II school until its new status takes effect in 2020. For UCSD sports, the Division-II status has held its fair share of disappointments, often conjuring up a lackluster sense of apathy. Being Division II means that UCSD’s rivals are often smaller schools (averaging around 4,000 to 6,000 students) with a different emphasis on academic standards and share little in common with our student population. At the same time, UCSD’s muted focus on sports has fed into the school’s reputation as being “UC Socially Dead.”

“I don’t care enough about this school. I don’t care enough about our sports league,” an anonymous Roger Revelle sophomore commented. “I don’t even know that much about our sports league. I think a big factor that plays into it is that we don’t have any rivals to really pit ourselves against and we’re kind of just there. We’re not the best, we’re not the worst, and there’s nothing that we really strive for.”

So, would the move into Division I really make all that big of a difference? Earl Edwards, the director of athletics, seems to think so. He claims that with UCSD’s entrance into the Big West Conference, there will be a revival in community between UCSD’s divided campus. This is because UCSD will be able to compete against schools such as UC Irvine, UC Davis, California State University Fullerton, and California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo —  schools that are much closer to home than UCSD’s current Division-II opponents. The new status will also bring about more national recognition and greater media attention to UCSD as a whole.

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“The main way [becoming Division I] will affect our campus is through the school pride and unification [it will bring],” Edwards said. “For athletics, there will be more national exposure for UC San Diego, which will help people gain better jobs. UCSD will also get more exposure and media attention. That is better for the students, if we get more recognition as a whole. When you travel to east of the Mississippi, a lot of people don’t really know about UCSD. But we are basically a public ivy league, and this [move into Division I] can be our way of communicating that story across the nation.”

This very sense of excitement is one that Friday’s Spirit Night tried to facilitate. With vibrant blues and golds having consumed the usually still RIMAC gym, and the crowds having roared with cheer, Spirit Night claimed to be the one night where Tritons were able to “let loose” their school pride. It is exactly this that Earl Edwards and several other faculty members and students are looking forward to. With the move into Division I will hopefully come the approach of more nights such as these.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, UCSD’s move into Division-I status doesn’t come entirely without consequences. In fact, part of the reason why Division I won’t come into effect until 2020 is the payment plan that UCSD must adhere to. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Intercollegiate Athletic fee that students had previously paid quarterly was $129.38 per quarter. With the move into Division I, this number has changed to $239.38 per quarter, thus raising costs by around $480 per academic year (excluding summer session). This rise in the cost of attendance can’t help but beg the question: Is the “up” in school spirit worth it?

Many seem to think not. “Moving into Division I wouldn’t really change much. If anything, it would increase our tuition because of the necessary spending needed to move into Division I, and the transportation, and the scouting and all that,” an anonymous student stated. “I also think [the games] would be really slow at the beginning and the payoff wouldn’t really happen until maybe two to five years down the line [when we get better]. As of now, I don’t really go to the games. So what’s going to cause me to go to a game against Stanford? Just because it’s Stanford? No, it’s not going to make that much of a difference who we play against. Sports just aren’t that big at UCSD. Let’s be honest.”

Not all students feel this way, however. Current members of various UCSD sports teams are also frustrated by the fact that Division I would not affect our current sports. As Aaron Kim, a sophomore on the men’s baseball team, stated, “As a team we have a little frustration toward the 2021 status … but all we can do is shape the program more and prepare it for the future players of the program.”

Yet despite these views, it is important to note that the move to Division I is a choice made by the student body. It is the promise that the future brings that gets at the heart of what a Division-I status can do. Although current students may not be able to reap all of the benefits of a new status, the move will at least open UCSD up to newer, and hopefully better, opportunities.

Photo by Henry Chen.