With rights to no legal place to play, the UCSB men’s water polo team is in deep water.

The men’s water polo team has been permitted to use the Recreation Center’s pool for its six home conference games this year, despite the facility’s designation as a student-use facility. The team needs to use it because the pool designated for inter-collegiate use, Campus Pool, does not meet Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference standards.

A lock-in fee to finance the construction of a new Campus Pool is in the works, with the men’s water polo team attempting to collect the signatures necessary to add it to the ballot.

“It was like we were playing basketball on a slanted court,” said Joe O’Brien, head coach of the men’s water polo team for the last eight years. “Playing in a non-regulation pool impacts the outcome. With the RecCen pool, there’s no doubt about whether the game was fair or not.”

The Campus Pool is illegal for MPSF conference play because its shallow end, about one-third of the pool, is less than seven feet deep. The team hopes to build a new Campus Pool that will meet MPSF regulations. Until this year, the water polo team has been confined to playing at the Campus Pool, where they still hold practice. Though there is no enforcement of the rules pertaining to pool depth, teams such as Berkeley have refused to play at UCSB in the past because the match was scheduled in the illegal pool.

The team’s use of the RecCen pool was approved by the center’s governance board on a game-to-game basis, allowing the board to measure the impact the use had on students before allowing continued use.

“Every recent NCAA champion in water polo has come from our conference, and we were the only ones without a regulation pool,” O’Brien said. “I think the board had sympathy for our situation.”

The team requested use of the RecCen pool for all its games and practices, but only conference games were approved. Both the Nov. 1 non-conference match against UC San Diego and the Nov. 2 alumni match were held at the Campus Pool. The team had to ask permission because when the facility was planned, it was to only be used for students’ recreational and class purposes.

“Because the RecCen is paid for using students’ money, it’s usually not supposed to be used for intercollegiate teams,” said Julie Kato, who is taking over as chair of the RecCen governance board. “The Campus Pool is inadequate for their needs, so we allowed them to use the RecCen this year for conference games.”

The last debate over use of the RecCen by intercollegiate athletics teams came in 1995, when the diving team requested the use of the pool for a meet. The team was allowed to use the pool only after agreeing to conduct diving clinics for students after the meet.

Construction on the RecCen was completed in 1995. Students pay $24.68 each quarter to cover the costs of maintaining the facility and students approved a lock-in fee in 2000 to expand the RecCen to include a climbing wall, a multi-purpose gym, a Jacuzzi, a classroom, another weight room and more locker rooms. Construction is set to begin in 2004.