The UC Irvine athletic department has been forced to make cuts in funding to almost all 23 Division I sports on campus during the 2006-07 season, shortly after two years of initial funding increases.
Documents released by the athletic department show that while funding has increased for a majority of athletic programs since 2003, the 2006-07 forecast suggests cuts across the board from all but two teams.
Among the most notable cuts are the decreases in funding for the men’s volleyball team. Despite completing the most successful season in school history and capturing the school’s first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Title in the 2005-06 season, the volleyball team took some of the heaviest cuts in funding, according to the 2006-07 forecast.
After receiving $307,999 last season, the athletic department cut funding to the volleyball program to $218,575 this year.
‘The problem at UCI is that once a program starts to do well, there isn’t the commitment in terms of increased funding by the department,’ said Marine Cano, former UCI women’s soccer head coach, who resigned at the end of the 2005 season after 12 seasons. ‘Once a team starts to win, the coaches need to be given the funding to recruit the best players to build a long-term winning program.’
Only the sailing team and the men’s water polo team were given increased funding, with the sailing team receiving $7,000 in increased funds and the water polo team receiving almost $800 more than its 2005 total.
‘The challenge is that we try to operate our programs to where we do not exceed our budget,’ said UCI Athletic Director Bob Chichester. ‘It is a challenge. It has always been a challenge here at UCI because of the number of sports that we have and the fact that we cannot rely on football or basketball to provide the revenue to support all our other sports. So because of that we, like most other Division I schools, know that the budget will always be a challenge.’
Of the seven sports that were particularly focused on for excellence and increased attention by Chichester, all seven were forced to take budget cuts.
These seven sports are baseball, and both men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball.
Cano, who resigned due to funding disputes with the athletic department, stated that a lack of full funding to many of UCI’s athletic programs and continued cuts makes it almost impossible to recruit out-of-state players, limiting the success of the team.
‘When I was coaching, the NCAA allowed a maximum of 12 scholarships for women’s soccer, but we only had 10,’ Cano said. ‘So when I can’t offer full-ride scholarships to out-of-state kids or even to kids in-state, of course they are not going to come to UCI. And I’m sure this is the situation a lot of the coaches are going through. But these coaches do an unbelievable job even though they are not funded like they should be compared to some of the other top Big West schools or even the worst Pac-10 schools.’
When UCI passed two student referendums to increase scholarship funding for all athletic programs during former Athletic Director Dan Guerrero’s tenure, most of the problems related to funding were supposed to be over, according to Cano.
Despite the increased total revenue, aided in large part by the student referendums, the department is expected to lose $340,065 this year, mostly due to the increased expenses accrued by the department and inconsistent fundraising contributions.
After generating over $260,000 in profit during the 2003-04 season, the athletic department has lost over $1.5 million in the ensuing three years, leaving many questions as to whether future cuts are likely and which programs might be affected.
According to the official 2004-05 NCAA Financial Reports, UCI has also struggled to catch up to other Big West Conference teams in generating revenue.
The report ranks UCI fourth in the conference behind UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and Cal Poly. Irvine is also ranked 112th overall out of 166 total schools that were listed (see chart to the right). The two other Big Conference schools