Sportsmanship of a sort was in evidence among the student body at the University of California, Davis, recently. Like every other school in the UC system, Davis has been hurt by four consecutive years of draconian cutbacks stemming from the state's budget crisis. With funding from the state to the university reduced to about $3.3 million for the 1993-94 school year (about 65% of the 1990-91 level) and with additional cuts of $2.3 million planned over the next three years, Davis was facing the elimination of as many as 15 of its 20 intercollegiate teams by 1996-97. The ax was already poised to fall next year on men's golf, men's swimming, men's water polo and wrestling. Regrettably, that would have put Davis in step with the trend of universities' discarding minor sports to help balance their budgets.
But in this case the students took matters into their own hands, voting in April, for the second time in a year, to raise student fees to offset the projected budget cuts for sports. Given three options—a 23-sport program, a 17-sport program or no program—the students approved the first by a 52% majority. The measure provides that the fee approved last year—a $34 quarterly assessment—will be continued indefinitely and will double by '96-97. Also, three women's sports, yet to be determined, will be elevated from club to varsity status.
While applauding the students' action, however, one wonders about its impact. Given an ultimatum, how many student bodies will choose to support athletics the way the students did at Davis, whose football, baseball, softball, women's gymnastics and women's volleyball teams all finished in the top 10 in Division II this year? If past is prelude, it will not be the name sports that get eliminated; rather, it will be sports like gymnastics, swimming and wrestling.
The challenges for the administration of new NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey are many. But none is bigger than preserving and protecting nonrevenue sports from cut-and-slash administrators trying to find easy solutions to complex problems. That, too, is a form of sportsmanship.
Poor Enzo Scifo, who is a midfielder for Belgium and the son of Italian parents. His surname is pronounced "SHE-foe" in Italian. During Belgium's World Cup game against Morocco on Sunday, however, ESPN announcers called him "SKI-foe," which, in Italian, means "disgusting."