By Phil Dailey
Remain in the same small pond or go swimming in the big ocean, that’s what is at stake for the UC San Diego Athletic department in the coming weeks.
Starting on Feb. 27, students at UCSD will vote whether or not the athletic department should move up from Division II to Division I in all sports. Currently, the men’s and women’s water polo teams, as well as the men’s volleyball team, compete at the Division I level. The school’s other 20 athletic teams, however, do not compete at the highest level of collegiate sports.
The voting for the students is open until March 6 and with a majority of yes votes, would allow the Tritons to move forward, likely with an invitation to join the Big West Conference.
A majority of no votes would mean the idea would be shelved.
Though the first initiative to move to Division I came from students during the 2009-10 school year, particularly from Associated Students president Utsav Gupta, it’s some students on campus today who have concern for the move.
The UC system’s athletic programs
In total, there are 10 schools included in the University of California system, and of the 10, six are Division I schools — UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Berkeley.
The four that are not are UC San Diego (Division II), UC Santa Cruz (Division III), UC Merced (started in 2005, NAIA) and UC San Francisco (no sports).
Ideally, UC San Diego’s athletic department wants to fit in with schools such as Davis, Irvine and Santa Barbara — not only Division I schools and members of the Big West Conference, but like UCSD, they are also in the select company of the Association of American Universities.
“When we are talking about moving to Division I, we are talking about competing with like institutions,” said UCSD athletic director Earl Edwards. “We should be in the same conference with those schools.
“It would put us in line with other major research institutions in the country that compete at the Division I level.”
Why make the move?
UC San Diego is the largest Division II institution in the country.
Currently, there are 302 Division II schools with an average enrollment around 4,500. Most all of the DII schools are small public colleges or universities (52 percent) or private institutions (48 percent). UC San Diego is neither a small public schools (with an enrollment of nearly 30,000) nor private.
Not only is UC San Diego the largest DII school in the nation, there are only six other DII schools that have an enrollment of more than 15,000. In fact, 244 schools have an enrollment of less than 7,500 students.
When comparing UC San Diego’s number of interscholastic sports, that too is way above average for DII. The Tritons have 23 NCAA sports, while the average DII institution only has 14.
According to Athletics Staffing and Consulting, the firm that produced a feasibility study on UCSD’s potential move, it concluded that the school does no fit the profile of an average Division II institution, but in fact is more in line with the profile of a Division I university.