In my tenure as sports editor and as a staff writer at the Daily Nexus, I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with most of the coaches at UCSB.
By and large, they have all been accommodating, amiable people doing what they do because they have a passion for the game they teach and an inexhaustible ability to coach. Their dedication to their athletes and the university has been a constant reassurance of what I do, but sometimes I wonder how they stay reassured.
At UCSB, priorities often stray from athletics. Whether it starts with the student body and seeps into the administrative building or begins at the top and works its way down remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. Coaches and athletes do not receive the support they deserve from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Now, you can make the argument that this is an academics-focused campus, which it certainly is, but as UCSB inches closer to its second consecutive Commissioner’s Cup, it is clear that Gaucho athletics is, at the very least, the premier school in the Big West.
And, relatively speaking, they are doing this with mere pennies.
Granted, most schools’ athletic departments are run fiscally irresponsibly, draining funds that could otherwise be spent on educational instruments. However, this is usually the case because a school sponsors a football program that must pay for 85 scholarship players.
But Ironhead, we don’t have a football team!
Very good. You kids are so much smarter after a year’s worth of booze to the brain. Yes, we do not have a football program, yet athletics here are still underfunded to an astonishing degree.
In my experiences with all of the coaches here at UCSB, I have yet to talk to a coach who thought his or her program was sufficiently supported by the university, both financially and in terms of respect.
On the other hand, they continue to win. Is additional money needed if you consistently rank in the top 25 in the nation like our men’s soccer, men’s volleyball, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo, women’s water polo and women’s cross country teams have done in recent years?
Unfortunately, the powers that be ask this question and answer it in one fell swoop. No, the money is not absolutely necessary, especially if it is going to take money away from the education of the undergraduate, they will say.
I just pray that students (yes, student-athletes are students too) are the top priority when warranted money is denied from the athletic department, because here at UCSB (unlike other, bigger Division I schools) the department really does more good than harm.
Talk to any athlete, and they might tell you they feel like a second-class citizen around these parts. An overwhelming majority of athletes at UCSB do not get full scholarships to play sports here, even though they will put in an average of 50 hours a week just to play the game they love and improve the prestige of the school.
Like most questions with no right answers, it comes down to your values. At a place like UCSB where low tide is more appreciated than class, it might be unreasonable to expect a swarm of support for UCSB athletics next year, but this writer is going to give it the old college try.