To Daily Nexus Sports Editor Sean Swaby, I would like to extend my gratitude for acknowledging the dedication and achievements of my fellow Gaucho athletes. So often the Athletic Dept. is brushed aside and disregarded by our fellow students that it makes an athlete wonder if our commitment to sports is at all recognized at UCSB.
For the last four years, I have had the honor and the privilege of being a part of the UCSB men’s swim team, a program that has solidified itself as the top team in the Big West Conference. Under the direction of Gregg Wilson for the past 30 years, Gaucho men’s swimming has won 26 conference titles in 36 years of Big West championship competition. Of those 26, 23 were won consecutively, an NCAA record streak that was only matched by the concurrent streaks of Stanford and Texas swimming programs. Personally, I was a member of two Big West Conference Championship squads.
It is my impression that what many people at UCSB fail to comprehend is how seriously disadvantaged UCSB athletics is. For instance, our men’s track and field team currently carries about three full-ride scholarships, a number to be spread across a roster boasting 54 athletes. A fully funded program, such as Long Beach State, Cal Poly or Cal State Northridge, is allowed nearly 13 full scholarships. Additionally, the women’s track and field provides five full scholarships, a devastating 13 fewer scholarships than the fully funded programs against whom they compete. And yet, Head Coach Pete Dolan has guided his program to be a consistent force in the Big West, culminating in a women’s team championship last year as they defeated fully funded Northridge, Long Beach State and Cal Poly.
The swim team is similarly disadvantaged, with about six of the possible 10 full scholarships available to the men’s team and nine of the possible 14 full scholarships for the women’s program. Furthermore, swimming and diving programs such as UC Irvine and UC Davis can score as much as 40 percent of their total points at the conference championships from diving alone, a program that was cut from UCSB in 1998 due to lack of funding. Still, Wilson has guided the men’s team to no lower than a second place finish in the conference since 1978. Our women’s team overcame a 150-point deficit due to diving to win the team title.
Year after year, I have watched divers from rival schools compete at the Conference championships, easily bolstering their team scores and chipping away at any lead the Gauchos may have established. I have also seen numerous recruits choose UC Irvine, UC Davis or Pacific over UCSB because of the scholarship money they were offered by those schools. So often our coaches report to us that we lost our top recruit to another school simply because of money. Yet, time and again, Gaucho athletic teams finish at the top of their respective conferences.
Swaby couldn’t have been more right when he said the Athletic Dept. continues to, “outwork, out-recruit and out-fundraise” (“How the Big West Was Won,” Daily Nexus, May 23, 2005) the rest of the conference. As UCSB athletes, we pride ourselves on our ability to beat teams with far more scholarship money, superior facilities and greater depth of resources.
Our men’s soccer team epitomizes this concept of outworking the rest of the conference with incredible efforts to raise the funds necessary to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the nation. Who can say they weren’t impressed and didn’t hop on the bandwagon when our fellow Gauchos found themselves in the National Championship game in 2004?
As to support received from the student body, I would like to sincerely thank those who have been there for UCSB athletics – notably, the Gaucho Locos, athletes who are committed to supporting their fellow Gauchos and Sean Swaby. Until the rest of the student body recognizes the time commitment, work ethic and dedication to excellence demonstrated by our Athletic Dept., I can guarantee that our under-funded sports teams will continue to work harder and longer than the rest of our scholarship wealthy conference. We will continue to win championships, bring home the Commissioner’s Cup and show the rest of the nation that it’s not all about the Benjamins.
Grant Hurst is a senior hydrological sciences major.