1-Man’s Opinion Column–Thursday “Open Letter to UC-San Diego Athletics”

Posted by on May 19th, 2016  •  0 Comments  • 


“UCSD-What are they thinking?”
by Lee Hamilton-CW6-Sports


Tomorrow is the final day for all those people up on that campus to vote.

Those people, smart people, enrolled at UC-San Diego, known for its Grade Point Averages, its scholars, its awards, its research, and its beautiful campus.

What are all these smart people thinking?

Friday is the final day for the student body to vote to bill itself higher student fees for the next 3-years, to fund its basketball program, so it can move to Division I.

The Tritons were Division III, and upgraded to Division II. It’s non-scholarship athletics, more participatory than it is overly competitive. They play schools of other academic standards, in a tucked in small college conference known as the CCAA, the California College Athletic Association. Cal State San Marcos was on their basketball schedule this past winter. The regularly play Cal State Monterrey Bay, East Bay, San Francisco State, Sonoma State, Chico State and the likes.

UCSD has 19-varsity sports and basketball went a very respectable (24-8). They are not on the San Diego sports radar at all, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with high school athletes, who are about to become scientists, researchers, bankers, teachers, continuing their athletic careers a couple of more years in a college setting, where GPA’s are more important than points and rebounds.

But now there is the big debate. And tomorrow the student body, with an enrollment of 31,502, will wrap up voting to tax itself an additional 480-dollars per student, to fund a budget for scholarships to go Division 1-in hoops.

The response has been mixed, from the academic side and the alumni side. Academics wonders what is to be gained by that type of expenditure, rather than pour additional resources into facilities, salaries, field study programs? Where should institutional investment really wind up.

Alumni believe a true Division 1-athletic program givens nationwide recognition to a school, and drives donations. Maybe so, in many places, but this does not seem to be one of them. For some reason the alums believe UCSD can become a bastion of basketball accomplishment to match its academic standing. For some reason they envision the Tritons becoming a Stanford or a Michigan or a Duke.

Basketball stand alone programs are few and far between. Gonzaga may be the exception to the rule. Maybe the University of Dayton another. They excel without football programs and the other heritage around them. Those schools get to March Madness, and do draw attention.

There are 32-Division 1-basketball conferences out there. There were 351-schools playing D-1 basketball last season. There have been 36-small schools that have elevated themselves into Division 1 in the last five years.

Ever hear anything about the University of Seattle, High Point University, Longwood, New Jersey Tech, North Florida, Utah Valley, or Grand Canyon University? Where has that investment gotten them?

UCSD wants to join the Big West Conference. There are names in that conference, but do you think UCSD will be drawing the same caliber of athlete as Long Beach State, UC-Irvine, Cal Santa Barbara, Hawaii, where JUCO transfers and Division 1-transfers are the norm? Do many of those Big West schools have the academic requirements of the greatness demanded by UCSD?

The Tritons need only to look across the highway, at another school on the other hill, to see what ‘being lost’ looks like. That being the University of San Diego, with a Division 1-basketball program in a pretty good West Coast Conference. They struggle to compete and recruit and win. They play before empty seats all the time. Maybe UCSD alums are influenced by the accomplishment of Steve Fisher and San Diego State. Higher profile school, higher profile conference, and now a national name.

Shall be fun when the vote count is taken amongst the student body to see if the students go ahead and bill themselves more for the right to say we are Division 1-even if it means little in terms of recognition and post season play.

Seems like a tremendous leap of faith that this is warranted, this is needed. A great school doesn’t need a college basketball program in the top division to define itself.

A degree from Duke and Stanford is impressive. So is one from UC-San Diego, without having the Tritons try to be something they really can’t be, great in basketball.


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