The game back then was different – some would say an all-out grind between pay dirt – but that never stopped UCSB Intercollegiate Hall of Fame Head Coach Jack Curtice from plotting an innovative aerial flight plane for his Gaucho footballers to thrive. Football’s ground game was adapting, and developing the forward pass was mandatory if Curtice wanted to control the Fraggle Rock and lift the Gauchos to Division I status.
Those were the glory days of UCSB football – before consistent low attendance, floundering athletic funds and NCAA resolutions tackled the program to a halt in 1992.
“When you think of football, you think of Michigan, Florida State, big stadiums that draw lots of people,” Assistant Athletic Director of Media Relations Bill Mahoney said. “But the atmosphere [in Santa Barbara] wasn’t the same. We’d have to move game times to find the best times to draw more fans. We never got above 3,000 fans a game.”
Yet it was not fan turnout that eventually drowned the program. In the early ’90s, the National Collegiate Athletic Association passed a resolution involving university sports programs that participated in more than one athletic division in different sports, forcing these universities to compete in one division throughout each sport offered by the school’s entire athletic program, Mahoney said.
Adding defenders to the pile, a student initiative was later created in 1992 that gave undergraduates and graduates the option of continuing the football program or cutting all funds from the rarely neglected American pastime.
What would have been a close victory for the undergraduate football fans at the school was intercepted at the voting booths by a substantial graduate student vote in favor of ending the underappreciated Division II, but successful Division III, football team.
“It’s been so long since we had football at this school, it is kind of weird to imagine,” Mahoney said. “We were really good for that level, considering we were completely non-scholarship. We just couldn’t get a big draw. It was fun to have, though, and we were a pretty good team to watch.”
Since their last game in December of 1992, many Gaucho fans have found alternative means of sports appreciation. From Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg’s championship-contending soccer team to Head Coach Kristy Shroeder’s up-and-coming softball powerhouse, the Gauchos will always have the option of getting loco in the stands.
“I’ve never really thought about not having [a football team],” Gaucho Locos President Cavan Ewing said. “Personally, I’m happy we don’t. I feel like our fans are more creative than [larger crowds]. I also don’t think we would spend as much time as we do now recruiting for soccer.