The University of California Regents convened at UC San Francisco for the second day of their January meetings Thursday morning to discuss Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal and approval of a new bonus policy for UC athletic coaches.
The budget discussion centered on the perceived lack of financial resources allocated to the UC system in the proposal by Brown. UC President Janet Napolitano recently approved a new policy linking student athletes’ academic performance to the coaches’ bonuses, a proposal opposed by some Regents. Under the policy, all contract bonuses will be withheld from coaches whose teams do not meet the minimum Academic Progress Rate (APR) determined by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The APR is a points system determined by the teams’ athletic and academic performance, including graduation rates and GPAs.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said he disapproves of the proposal and thinks the APR threshold suggested by Napolitano is superfluous.
“The standard we have adopted, 930 [points], is quite familiar to me and certainly familiar to the NCAA. It’s the lowest standard that the NCAA currently provides,” Newsom said. “And colleagues, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the 930 standard not only is modestly north of a fifty-percent graduation rate, which hardly seems illuminating, but the 930 standard is a requirement under the NCAA already for participation in any tournament play.”
According to Newsom, the NCAA already punishes coaches whose players perform below the minimum.
“It’s a requirement, that if not met already, requires sanctions against those athletic departments, loss of scholarships already, loss of practice time already and quite specifically now with the rule that was established two years ago, makes it clear that any Division I team is not eligible for post-season play,” Newsom said. “Why does that matter? Well that’s already in place. We’re doing almost nothing here under the illusion that we’re doing something.”
Regent John Perez said the proposal is unnecessary, as almost all UC teams are currently performing above the proposed minimum APR requirement.
“The fact that every UC team sport, save one, already meets the standard convinces me that this is a meaningless standard,” Perez said.
In addressing UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, Newsom said the amount of money coaches earn for athletic performance should be redistributed towards fostering team academic achievement.
“The disproportionate nature of the incentives for athletic versus academic achievement is comical,” Newsom said. “It’s off the charts; its thirty-to-one. Is that a commitment, as you said, to academic achievement? Are you holding folks accountable? Are you proud? Is that something we should be inspired by?”
Guerrero said there could be potential negative impacts on the athletic departments that may result from raising APR requirements.
“A higher APR could result in athletes moving into less rigorous majors,” Guerrero said. “There’s a possibility that student athletes will begin to cluster in their majors, perhaps enrolling in majors that are less desirable to them because they may feel a pressure and obligation to their coach, since his or her livelihood in many respects is dependent on academic success.”
According to Guerrero, coaches will be pressured to make decisions that may deter the team from performing well physically and academically.
“This could pressure coaches to keep students on their team when it may be in their best interest for better academic opportunities or better playing opportunities,” Guerrero said. “It may force coaches to recruit the better student, but not the better athlete and then when we evaluate them at the end of the year we’re evaluating them both on their athletic success and their academic success.”
Guerrero said recruiting for certain sports teams may become difficult due to the different standards held at each UC.
“It becomes a recruiting disadvantage for our coaches in some respects because there are going to be other coaches out there saying ‘Why do you want to go to UCLA? Why do you want to go to Cal? Why do you want to go to UC Irvine? Because you won’t be able to major in the major that you want,’” Guerrero said.
Brown said the proposal set the academic bar too low for the UC in its historic role as a leading public university system.
“I am troubled by the spirit of this resolution and I do think the academy, the UC academy, has to lead and not follow the culture,” Brown said. “These kind of low standards, because of monetary factors, I think distort the fundamental essence of the University and its capacity to be a leader.”
According to Regent Sherry Lansing, athletics are a valuable resource that do not diminish the academic goals of the UC.
“From the world that I come from, sports is a very valuable thing to do. It’s part of life; it gives you incredible skills, skills in how to succeed in the world, skills in teamsmanship, skills in collaboration and it requires an unusual intelligence in doing strategic motives, Lansing said. “So I don’t think it’s against our academic qualities to encourage people to go into sports.”
Regent Eddie Island said the UC experience is valuable even to student athletes who do not graduate.
“A college degree is not the goal of every athlete that comes to the University,” Island said.
Island said student athletes can benefit simply by spending time in a university setting.
“They come to the University for athletics, and athletics in itself are a valuable thing,” Island said. “They get an opportunity to leave their community and go to a great institution like the University of California. They get mentoring, they get help, they get assistance, they get tutoring and they have a college experience. That it does not result in a college degree is not necessarily a bad thing.”
The Regents ultimately tabled the proposal and moved on to a discussion of Brown’s budget proposal.
UCOP Chief Financial Officer and interim Chief Operating Officer Nathan Brostrom said Brown’s plan shows an increase in funds for the upcoming fiscal year and California’s economic improvement.
“The Governor’s budget does reflect a strengthening state economy. Early in January, the governor introduced his budget,” Brostrom said. “The general fund for 15-16 is projected at $113.3 billion, which is a 6.1 percent increase over the 14-15 budget year.”
According to Brostrom, a large portion of the fund will be directed towards K-12 and $119 million will go to UCs, while $600 million will go to community colleges.
“Most of that is going to K-12, but also a large portion is going to community colleges.”
Brostrom said the budget does not provide adequate funds for CSUs and UCs to accept transfer students from community colleges.
“A lot of these students are going to be looking for where to transfer to in a couple years and, both for CSU and for UC, we’re being funded not in ways to allow for enrollment growth, so I think it is going to be a problem in the budget of how to address these students.”
UC Regent Bonnie Reiss said the lack of education funds deters individuals from working at public universities when there are opportunities at private universities that pay far more.
“Here, for the same public service many of these people, even if they stayed within higher education, like Stanford and USC and other private universities in our own state, they don’t have to move far, make offers for much more money the people we are bringing in,” Reiss said.
To learn more about the APRs of specific institutions or teams, see here.