Recreational Sports evaluates existing programs, relationship with Intercollegiate Athletics

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Alice Langford/Staff

Approximately four months after previous director Mike Weinberger’s retirement in February 2016, Recreational Sports released a report in June highlighting possible administrative changes deemed necessary for improvement by the department’s review committee, including strengthening Rec Sports’ relationship with Intercollegiate Athletics and re-evaluating the relevance of certain programs.

The report, which can be found on the Rec Sports website, was compiled by members of a departmental review committee formed to evaluate ways of implementing potential changes as the search for a new Rec Sports director continues into 2017. Rec Sports’ senior leadership team brought together the committee in February 2016 to assess the current administrative procedures of the department and recommend possible improvements, according to Rec Sports spokesperson Andy Davis.

“The findings and recommendations of the committee have informed the department’s efforts during the search for a new director,” Davis said in an email. “Additionally, they will serve as a great foundation as the department continues to evolve and progress under the tremendous leadership of Interim Director, Brigitte Lossing.”

Key points of the report include working to fine tune the Recreational Sports Facility’s mission “in support of wellness,” creating a “sustainable funding model” and clearly distinguishing Rec Sports from Intercollegiate Athletics in terms of how they each serve the campus. The report notes that the motion to integrate Rec Sports services with Intercollegiate Athletics, while likely unfavorable among students concerned about the deprioritization of certain programs within Rec Sports, could be beneficial for both parties.

Since July 2015, Rec Sports has reported to the executive director for university business partnerships and services Solly Fulp, whose position was created in June 2015 to acquire business sponsorships that could bring revenue to the campus. By reporting to an entity from within upper campus administration, such as Intercollegiate Athletics, Rec Sports can better meet its financial needs, according to the report.

“The committee believes that the Recreational Sports program has not been appropriately prioritized at the executive levels and the department would be better positioned in a reporting structure where it can benefit from upper administration leadership,” the report says.

Difficult debt decisions

Because of significant debt, Intercollegiate Athletics and Rec Sports split in 2003, a little more than a decade after the two initially merged. Each department ran a deficit of more than $3 million, partially resulting from low attendance at athletic events. Combined, the departments spent more than $40 million.

Rec Sports and Intercollegiate Athletics initially merged in 1991 to utilize revenue from football and basketball games to better fund recreational sports, non-revenue sports and women’s sports teams. Athletics programs are subject to Title IX laws requiring proportionate numbers of women’s and men’s sports in order to ensure gender equity in Intercollegiate Athletics. The 2003 reorganization acted to divide the two entities, placing Rec Sports under the umbrella of student services, while Intercollegiate Athletics would continue to receive support from the vice chancellor for business and administrative services for its Division I athletic teams.

According to Weinberger, separating from Intercollegiate Athletics was “absolutely the best thing” because it allowed Rec Sports to better serve the student body. In 2003, Rec Sports was able to hold the first Caltopia, a fair for students to connect with Rec Sports, and develop a marketing program to fund student programs.

“We were the 99 percenters, (and) Athletics were the 1 percenters,” Weinberger said. “Separating (for) Rec Sports was the right decision — putting them back together would be a horrible decision.”

Intercollegiate Athletics spokesperson Herb Benenson said in an email that because no current staff members were involved in the split’s decision-making process, the department cannot accurately comment on the situation. He added that Intercollegiate Athletics has not participated in any discussions regarding a potential merge of the departments.

Since its separation from Intercollegiate Athletics, Rec Sports has established a number of partnerships with different entities to connect with the campus community. In 2015, University Health Services and Rec Sports passed a wellness referendum — a $146 semesterly fee — in partnership with the ASUC, allowing Rec Sports to receive a portion of student fees as part of its budget.

Additionally, Rec Sports formed a partnership with the Equal Opportunity Program, which provides support to financially challenged students on campus. Weinberger said the RSF helped the EOP host its annual “Family Dinner” event for several years to celebrate all that EOP offers.

Finding funds

Rec Sports’ budget amounts to $12,684,000, with funds allocated to student programs, facility maintenance and staff salaries. Rec Sports receives about 5 percent of its funding directly from central campus funds, while revenue from the department’s business sales and services comprises 62 percent of its budget.

According to the committee report, this funding model does not meet the financial needs of Rec Sports, including fulfilling its maintenance upkeep. As a possible solution, the report suggests that the campus “provide funding for core recreational facilities similar to academic buildings.”

The departmental review report also stresses re-evaluating certain programs, including passport processing and martial arts. While the report deems its passport-processing service “non-mission critical,” or not critical to the success of Rec Sports, Weinberger said the program has actually been quite successful since its implementation in 2004. The passport office does not occupy gym space, as it is located to the right of the Recreational Sports Facility entrance, and it generates a large portion of Rec Sports’ revenue — approximately $150,000.

The report also mentions that the “current spatial configurations” of sports in the RSF, such as the racquetball and squash courts, should be reconsidered. In July 2016, Rec Sports made plans to replace the squash and racquetball courts with cardio equipment, a decision that was reversed after a petition to keep the courts received more than 500 signatures.

According to Davis, no direct action has been taken on the report’s recommendations.

Opportunity cost

The review committee also advised rethinking the martial arts program, calling it “non-mission critical” as well. Although the report acknowledged the martial arts program’s value to the student body, it said the program is “taking away space and time from the general student population.”

Russell Ahn, director of the UC Martial Arts Program at UC Berkeley, stated that although he has been in constant communication with Lossing, he was unaware of the recommendations included in the report.

Mark Swanson, Taekwondo Club management service officer with the UC Martial Arts Program, said he was disappointed that the martial arts program was considered a separate group and not part of the student body.

“I was saddened by the distinction made between the users of the UCMAP facilities and ‘the general student population,’ ” Swanson said in an email. “Most of our members are students and everyone has access to our resources.”

Fulp noted that the committee’s recommendations in the report were not final but were intended to encourage the prioritization of certain recreational spaces of the RSF.

“One of the committee’s assessments included organizational priorities that addressed the general student population’s priority needs of the facility’s space,” Fulp said in an email. “The committee recommended the need to rethink current space configurations, which included the martial arts room; however, no decision has been made regarding this specific transition.”

ASUC President Will Morrow said he has not yet read the report but stressed that he would work to ensure that there remains communication between Rec Sports and the student body.

“What is important to me is that the offerings of the RSF reflect the diversity and interest and involvement of students here at Cal,” Morrow said. “There continues to be a dialogue between the RSF and students, so there is an understanding of the necessity and utilization of what these mean to students.”

As of June 2016, no new recommendations have been made by the committee, Fulp said.

Lossing will remain Rec Sports interim director while Fulp and Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy conduct the search for a new director, according to the Rec Sports website.

Contact Revati Thatte at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.