“The time, place and manner gave UCR Athletics a black eye that has complicated efforts of the boosters and alumni to raise funds for the department.” That is booster Kim Devlin’s opinion on the manner in which current UCR Athletic Director Tamica Smith-Jones fired former men’s basketball Head Coach Dennis Cutts and how it will impact future spending by the boosters.
The story on Cutts’ firing is that it was done in a parking lot after the team returned home from a road trip to Seattle, first thing in the morning on New Year’s Eve, which Devlin cited as just one of many instances where Smith-Jones has been unprofessional.
Mrs. Devlin added that Smith-Jones treats people rudely, is chronically late to meetings and is constantly on her phone while at sporting events, which is disrespectful to the players and coaches. Devlin suggests this can be poor for optics when games are being televised and our athletic director is buried into her phone instead of the game. Devlin also added that Jones’ “leadership or lack of leadership” led to former Associate Athletic Director John Maxwell leaving UCR’s athletic department.
In June of last year, The Highlander covered the 99 for Title IX event, a community-run fundraiser aiming to raise money for women in athletics, in which Smith-Jones’ comments carried “all sorts of inaccuracies,” Devlin said. “She didn’t understand that 99 for Title IX is a community-run organization. She made it sound like this event was run by the UCR Athletic Department. The UCR Athletic Department benefits from the event, but it is run independently. She didn’t understand the whole structure to the system which also makes her seem uninformed.”
Devlin, a former English professor who is now a dedicated booster, runs the 99 for Title IX fundraiser alongside fellow booster Amy Harrison. Devlin said she felt forced to cancel this years event due to a lack of faith in Smith-Jones. “It’s a huge fund for them and I feel terrible about cancelling it, but I sat down at the beginning of the year to write my donation check and I couldn’t write it, and I said if I can’t write this check because of my lack of confidence in what’s going on, how can I ask 20 other people to write a check?” asked Devlin, “That was a crisis moment for me. And I said this is just a bad situation, something should be done. I don’t know what can be done.”
The alleged shortage of accountability from Smith-Jones makes Devlin feel uneasy about writing checks for the Athletic Department going forward as well. Devlin said her bank account will be closed to the UCR Athletic Department following this year in order to protest how the department is being run. “The only way boosters and alumni can vote or have any say is through donating or non-donating and this is our only means of protesting the way she is running the department.”
Devlin believes that this suggested lack of professionalism and awareness has forced all boosters to take notice. The number of private supporters for the UCR Athletic Department has dropped drastically over this past year, according to Devlin. As shown by data provided to boosters from UCR Athletics, in 2015-16 the number of supporters was at 532 and actually rose to 632 in 2016-17. However, this year the number of private supporters plummeted to 230 and Devlin added context to those numbers saying, “several seasons ago it was at 1,116 and I find those statistics which we were given telling. I think they say something.”
According to Devlin, the boosters have made efforts to contact Chancellor Kim Wilcox to ask for an accounting form that would show them how their money is being spent, but the Chancellor failed to respond. Devlin says the boosters also contacted him about raising an internal vote of confidence or no-confidence for Smith-Jones, which would effectively deem her unfit for her position, but again received no response. Devlin explained that “A vote of no-confidence would have to come from the Chancellor … unfortunately I think the Chancellor isn’t that interested in athletics.”
As of time of writing, Smith-Jones has yet to respond to a request for comment.