I love sports. I love a good story. I especially enjoy stories involving sports. But not this one.
Once upon a time there was a small town with a large public university. The chancellor of that university really wanted its athletics program to be part of NCAA Division 1. He told the students that if they'd fund the program the university would run it differently, they'd run it right. So a campus ballot initiative was drawn up to capture this unique arrangement. In exchange for funding there'd be conditions. One of those conditions was that entire sports would never be cut.
Well vote they did and today every student pays $650 per year extra just for athletics. That's $18 million year after year. The chancellor was pleased and proud of what he called the program's "inviolate principles."
Then one day the chancellor retired and a new one arrived. In her very first year, citing state budget cuts and the need for fiscal sustainability, she concluded that sports had to be cut.
And so it came to pass that four sports, including women's rowing and men's swimming, were eliminated. It somehow didn't matter that the students were paying for athletics, not the state. In one grand and highly teachable moment students learned from their top educator that with enough power there's no such thing as an "inviolate principle." The following year they would learn that anyone wishing to make a statement on the quad should bring along a pair of goggles, though that's another story.
But wait! Somehow the athletics budget has continued to increase each year despite the absence of those sports. What's clear now is that the dreams of 140 kids were sacrificed simply so that more could be spent on football, men's basketball and admin salaries and bonuses. So much for doing D1 differently. So much for doing it right. And so much for truth, honor and integrity in leadership.
If Bob Dylan were to write a song about it, it might conclude like this…The moral of this story, the moral of this tale is that trust should not be given where it can be made to fail. If you're Janet Napolitano and you're about to jump in deep, don't mistake the chancellor of UC Davis for one you'll want to keep.
With a Perspective, this is Paul Medved.
Paul Medved is a UC Davis graduate and a transportation professional.