Many of us have heard the infamous phrase that has been echoed throughout our campus countless times: “UCR football — undefeated since 1975.”
A self-referential phrase that is meant as nothing more than a simple joke, this quote makes fun of the fact that we haven’t had a football team in four decades — therefore we haven’t lost a game in that timespan.
I get it. It’s clever and funny, but quite honestly, there exists a sort of conformity in this quote. The joke essentially emphasizes that for the past 40 years, our campus has stood idly by and watched other universities grow and expand their respective athletic programs with the help of their football teams. We, on the other hand, have struggled to become a nationally recognized sports program despite being a Division I school.
This is an image that needs to change, and the solution is to do the hard (but right) thing and invest in a college football team.
Now, we’ve all heard the excuses: “UCR’s not really a ‘sports school’ — so why bother?” “Football is too expensive — quit dreaming, kid.” And my personal favorite: “We’re UCR, not UC Berkeley or UCLA.”
C’mon! At what point did we as a university — which prides itself in its commitment to growth and expansion — become so complacent?
Yes, the truth of the matter is that building a football program would be one hell of an expensive project. In fact, some top-ranked football schools spend an average of over $30 million a year on their programs. But others, such as the nationally ranked and former Big West Conference program Boise State, spend as little as $8 million per year. Yes, it can be quite expensive, but the money that’s made in return also happens to be huge. On average, Division I football programs earn a revenue of $15 million a year — that’s $5 million more than what a college basketball program makes. So while a project like this would require money and may take years for the university to turn a profit, it could also become an extremely lucrative investment.
But since UCR competes in a conference that doesn’t feature football, how would we be able to house a football team? Thankfully, there’s a solution to that, too. Our sister university, UC Davis, also plays in the Big West Conference, but they have a fully operational football team that competes against other programs around the nation. How does that work out? Their solution is simple: While most of their programs compete in the Big West, its football team is autonomous in a sense and competes in the Big Sky Conference, a conference that features football. They’re free to play the sport without worrying about that roadblock. If they can do it, why not us?
Lastly, there is also controversy over what some call the Title IX “limitations.” Title IX is a part of a law that states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX is a regulation that has been blamed by some for limiting our investment in a football team, given that universities’ programs and activities are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex. The argument here is that investing in football would mean that UCR would be investing more in male sports than in female sports.
This is a ridiculous argument! Title IX does not directly mandate schools to spend an equal amount of money on both male and female sports. In fact, according to reports, about 80 percent of college sports funds go to men’s basketball and football. Likewise, the law doesn’t require a university to have the same amount of male and female sports. After all, UCR currently has nine female sports and eight male sports. This interpretation of the law is not only inaccurate, it’s also detrimental to the growth of some sports programs like UCR’s. Title IX was implemented to treat all genders equally, not to prevent the implementation of sports played by a certain gender.
So while it’s true that there would be a lot of hurdles to jump through in order to get this program up and running, it’s not impossible. Here’s a challenge I’m proposing to UCR: Let’s start investing in our future. Let’s start investing in our student-athletes. Let’s start investing in a football team. The next time someone says that UCR football has been undefeated since (insert date here), it sure as hell would be nice to actually mean it for once.