It’s hard enough to be competitive in a growing conference like Big West, but it’s even harder to do so while being under-funded. Yet, that is exactly what the track and field team does every year.
Each year the track and field team is given $206,000 to split evenly among the men and women. The largest portion of this budget is dedicated to coaches’ salaries – three full-time and two part-time coaches, with Head Coach Pete Dolan among the conference’s lowest paid head coaches – with the next largest expenditure being travel expenses for the 69 individuals who travel to and from track meets in the region. The rest is dedicated to scholarships, sports equipment and the other miscellaneous charges that can accumulate.
“It’s amazing what these coaches go through to get the most out of our athletes with what they get,” Assistant Coach David Monico said.
With the relatively low amounts of school funding the team looks to outside sources to support itself, such as donations and fundraising. Some donors are able to give more than others, with donations ranging from $100 to one very generous donation of $10,000. Other fundraising events, like the annual “Crab Feed” fundraising dinner and a silent auction, combine to provide a total of 35,000 outside dollars for the team.
“We have to fundraise at a pretty big level,” Dolan said. “We call the alumni, and mail out letters to the parents because that’s just the way we have to do it.”
UCSB Athletic Director Gary Cunningham explained that the reason why track and field is not a fully funded team is that Big West has designated certain sports, such as basketball and baseball, as sponsored sports and those teams must be given at least eighty percent of the amount allowed by the NCAA to keep the teams competitive. Track and field is not one of these sports and thus the amount of money given is up to the discretion of the athletics department.
“We would like to give every team more money, but with budget cuts, increased tuition costs and the increased cost of dorm living it’s very difficult,” Cunningham said. “The only way to get more money is to raise it ourselves.”
Perhaps the most damaging thing about being under-funded is the serious blow to recruitment offers that the coaches can make to prep school prospects. Santa Barbara has four scholarships of the 12.8 allowed to spread among the men, and five of the allowed 20 to spread among the women. Instead of giving nine athletes full ride scholarships, the money is spread out more evenly with the average scholarship athlete receiving a “one-third ride.”
“Other teams like Cal Poly and Northridge can go and talk to the best runner in Germany and offer him a scholarship to run for them,” Dolan said. “I have to rely on other approaches to succeed.”
Perhaps the only break that Dolan and the coaching staff catch when it comes to recruiting is that they are fortunate enough to coach at a reputable school in a beautiful location.
“That’s pretty much the only thing we have to sell,” Monico said. “That and our coaching expertise.”
Perhaps it is Dolan’s and the coaching staff’s expertise that has kept Santa Barbara competitive against the better-funded teams in the Big West. This year’s women’s team brought home a Big West conference title while the men registered a third-place finish. Still, Dolan would like to see more recognition from the powers that be of what the track and field team is trying to accomplish and the tools that they are given to accomplish it.
“We here have a great mission statement,” Dolan said. “It says that we exist to be competitive at the highest level in the country … If we are supposed to be competing at the highest level then give me the tools to do that and I’ll be at there every year, and if not then they could fire me.”