UCSB! Welcome back. For the new faces, welcome to campus.

It was this time last year that I was first walking the streets of Isla Vista as a Gaucho, fresh off the transfer boat from UC Santa Cruz.

I played basketball at UCSC, a Division III NCAA program, and even with the large publicity and exposure gaps between the athletics departments at both schools, I’ve still found many similarities.

One is the turnout for basketball games. At Santa Cruz it was because the gym capacity was around 350 people, so even when the place was packed I still felt like I was in a small lecture hall.

Yet with more than 20,000 students walking around campus each week, there seems to be a large discrepancy between the empty seats in the Thunderdome, and the empty seats around the ‘snappa’ tables on Del Playa Drive.

UCSB men’s basketball games averaged 2,419 people per home game last year. The Thunderdome has a max capacity of 6,000. Maybe it doesn’t need to be filled for every home game, but it is time to start changing the student perspective toward Gaucho athletics.

Men’s soccer broke the record for attendance at a D-1 soccer game last year when a total of 15,896 people packed in to Harder Stadium to watch the victory against UCLA. There aren’t many things cooler for a university to do in athletics than set records, especially when beating a UC rival.

But every time I hear UCSB referred to as a ‘soccer school,’ I cringe. Not because I hate soccer, but because I feel like this school has such great potential to become more than just a ‘soccer school.’

Men’s basketball has won the Big West Conference tournament the past two years, which has become two NCAA tourney berths in March.

Men’s baseball has produced professional athletes such as Barry Zito and Michael Young, and sent six players from last year’s roster to the Major Leagues.

But supporting Gaucho athletics doesn’t just mean following the mainstream sports.

The swimming and diving teams have a total of 39 Big West championships. The track and field team brought home six event titles in the Big West Conference tournament last season. Both men’s rugby and men’s volleyball placed second in the nation this past year. Women’s volleyball had two players named to the All-American team, including this year’s senior right side Stacey Schmidt.

It’s an exciting time for Gaucho athletics. Teams are improving, programs are gaining national recognition, and a surge in support from the student body over the next few years would propel UCSB into the Division-I sports status it deserves.

I challenge every single UCSB student to attend at least two home games for a sport each quarter this year. That’s just five hours per quarter of free fun with friends, five less hours on Facebook, and five less hours of ruining your liver.

Unless you choose to take some shots before watching senior men’s basketball guard Orlando Johnson do the same.



Brent Pella