UCSB football cheerleaders resigned their pom-poms twice in the last century – once during the Vietnam War and again in 1991, when the campus decided the program was too expensive.
Associated Students President-elect Brian Hampton is working to bring back Gaucho football, as stated in his campaign platform, though if made a reality, the pom-poms may not be used for a minimum of five years.
Hampton supported re-establishing football after the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha collected 4,200 signatures on a petition Winter Quarter, enough to place the measure on the ballot in the recent Spring Election. After Hampton proposed the plan to the athletic department, Athletic Director Gary Cunningham and the Student Athlete Advisory Board rejected the proposal on the grounds that it would not be in the best interests of the athletic department and the initiative was left off the ballot.
Adding a football team while maintaining the current number of men’s sports teams would be difficult because of Title IX, a 1972 law requiring a roughly equal number of athletes in men’s and women’s sports. If a football team were re-established, the athletic department would have to either increase the number of women’s sports or decrease the number of men’s sports in order to maintain the correct proportion.
It is unlikely that the athletic department would support cutting programs in order to free up money for a football team, Cunningham said.
Following Title IX guidelines would add to other expenses, such as the $650,000 to $700,000 in scholarships needed to recruit prospective football players. The athletic department would also have to hire several coaches and support staff, purchase equipment and absorb the cost of adding a Division I-AA football team.
“I don’t know exactly what it would cost, but I would guess it would be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million plus the increased cost of women’s sports and the scholarships,” Cunningham said.
The athletic department at UCSB also lacks the physical space needed to support offices for football coaches or an adequate place to hold football practices, Cunningham said.
“I know right now we don’t have enough space for current staff. We’re on top of each other. With football, you would add seven to eight more coaches,” he said. “Harder Stadium is where they are going to play, but where are they going to practice? Harder Stadium already has high usage.”
To solve funding problems, Hampton said he would rely on a combination of contributions from the Alumni Association and from a student lock-in fee.
“There are many alumni who are very willing to donate money for a football program, but there needs to be a set income from student fees every year, so that if alumni donations are low, the program won’t disappear,” Hampton said.
Members from the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity contacted the Alumni Association and asked them to propose a plan for a student lock-in fee before sending a petition around last summer, Lambda Chi Alpha member Forrest Jung said.
“It took them about a year, and they contacted a lot of people,” Jung said. “The first year would be a $17 fee per quarter, and that comes out to $51 a year. Then the fee would raise $5 a year for the next eight years. That comes out to roughly $31 a quarter after eight years. That sounds like a lot, but UCLA is $60 a quarter and that is just for football. Half of this fee would go to women’s athletics to cover Title IX.”
Alumni Association Executive Director Peter Steiner said he did not know if the Alumni Association would back football at UCSB.
“I would not expect [the Alumni Association] to support the football program financially, because I don’t think they have the funds to give to outside programs,” Steiner said. “There would be some alumni interested and some not interested.”
UCSB fielded a football team from the 1920s until 1971 and then again from 1986 until 1991. The program was discontinued both times due to a lack of money and student support, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Bill Mahoney said.
“In the 1970s, [the football program] was very unsuccessful. The Vietnam War was going on, and football wasn’t something the students wanted to sponsor,” he said.
In 1991, the football program again ran out of support and funding. “We were Division I in all of our sports. We needed to increase funding for other programs, and we put [the decision] to the students, and they didn’t support the program,” Mahoney said.
Even with funding and facilities, the prospective program faces difficulties. The team would also have to join a separate league.
“The league we’re in, the Big West Conference, eliminated football a year ago,” Cunningham said. “It would be challenging to find a place to play because all teams are affiliated with leagues.”
If UCSB were to get past all the obstacles and implement a football program, it would take up to five years to field a team, Hampton said.
“I really would like to see this happen,” he said, “even though I would be gone by the time the program was ready.”