Description of the process followed by the new sport working group

April 13, 2018

In a letter to the UC Davis Athletics community on November 27, 2017, Athletics Director Kevin Blue announced that UC Davis would increase the number of varsity athletics participation opportunities for women.

A significant shift in the proportionality of women and men in the UC Davis undergraduate population created a need for a commensurate increase in female varsity student-athletes so that UC Davis could remain in compliance with Title IX. The percentage of female students increased from 55.1% in 2011-2012 to 59.4% in 2016-2017.

This paper seeks to provide a summary of the process the campus working group followed in soliciting recommendations, analyzing the candidacy of nominated teams, and arriving at the recommendation that was eventually made to Chancellor May.

An announcement was made on November 27, 2017, notifying the public of UC Davis’ intention to add participation opportunities for female varsity athletes. An accompanying Frequently Asked Questions page was linked from that announcement, which contained information outlining details related to the process and selection criteria.

A survey was created to solicit input and nominations from the public. The survey was opened on November 27, 2017, and closed at the nomination deadline of January 19, 2018. The survey received nearly 600 submissions from students, staff, alumni, and community members who nominated 14 different women’s teams for initial consideration. Additionally, an open forum was held on the UC Davis campus on January 9, 2017, to enable further public comment.

Information pertinent to the candidacy of the nominated teams was gathered by ICA staff and members of the working group. Research was conducted by consulting with individuals who possessed expertise and knowledge in a variety of different areas. For example, athletics staff at other institutions provided information about finances, operating details, and roster sizes. Officials from the NCAA and different conferences provided perspectives about scheduling, roster sizes, operating costs, and possible conference affiliations for candidate teams. Additionally, executives from sport-specific governing organizations were also consulted.

The degree of potential philanthropic support for candidate teams was analyzed in three ways. UC Davis Athletics fundraising staff consulted with colleagues at other institutions to gain a more informed understanding of the fundraising productivity that had been achieved in support of different teams at peer institutions. In addition, the projected donor capacity associated with candidate teams was assessed in the local context of UC Davis. Lastly, a contingent pledge process was created that allowed donors to make a gift in support of their preferred candidate team that would only become binding if their preferred team was selected.

As research and analysis was conducted, the working group assessed each of the candidate teams with respect to the specified criteria of philanthropic support, participation opportunities, competitive opportunity, and conference alignment.

On February 16, 2018, the working group released an update elaborating upon the considerations that had shaped the analysis to that point. The update explained that a significant number of participation opportunities needed to be added, that NCAA-sponsored sports were strongly preferred, and that a facility needed to be easily accessible to students. These considerations narrowed the options in strongest consideration to beach volleyball and rugby, fencing and rugby, rowing, or equestrian.

The group proceeded with its analysis by focusing in detail on these candidate teams. Further work was performed to understand philanthropic support and community enthusiasm, including input from current undergraduate students who are participating on club teams.

The campus working group gathered in person for meetings or by conference call on six occasions to discuss the information that was gathered and to move the analysis forward. The working group communicated updates to the public on five separate occasions.

The group ultimately arrived at a recommendation to add beach volleyball and a moderately-sized equestrian team. Below is a table showing how the group considered each of the selection criteria when making this recommendation.

Number of participation opportunities  

Equestrian teams carry between 25 and 65 participants. Beach volleyball teams are comprised of between 12 and 20 participants. The combination of these teams will allow UC Davis the flexibility to maintain compliance with Title IX in the future, even if the undergraduate ratio were to change further.

Philanthropic support  

A generous lead gift will support the construction of an on-campus beach volleyball facility. Donors have expressed support for the equestrian program through the contingent pledge process, and our analysis projects further strong support in the future from the equestrian community.

Competitive opportunity

Bolstered by the world-leading attractiveness of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the equestrian team will be able to recruit elite student-athletes from all over the world and is expected to contend for national championships. Given the strength of the sport in California, the beach volleyball team will also be very competitive. The addition of beach volleyball will also bolster the existing indoor volleyball program.

Conference alignment

The beach volleyball team will compete in the Big West Conference alongside other UC Davis programs. Equestrian is classified as a NCAA emerging sport and the team will compete in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association.

Financial Considerations for the New Teams
It is important to note that the combination of beach volleyball and a moderately-sized equestrian team is projected to be financially similar to adding a larger equestrian team on its own or adding another large team like rowing.

Some of the anticipated costs are related to required scholarship expenses. Title IX mandates that scholarships must be awarded in proportion to the total number of female and male varsity athletes (i.e., the number of people, which is different than the number of roster spots or participation opportunities). In other words, adding a certain number of female varsity athletes to the total requires a commensurate increase in scholarship spending. Since it is conventional for some indoor volleyball players to also participate on the beach team, there are savings in beach volleyball scholarship expenses. These roster patterns are very common at institutions that sponsor indoor volleyball and beach volleyball, and are permitted under Title IX. They also regularly occur when student-athletes participate in sports like cross country and track and field.

Team travel is expected to be efficient for beach volleyball because of the strength of competition in California.

Equestrian expenses are much less than is commonly believed. Teams compete using horses at the host institution, so there are no costs incurred for transporting horses or equipment. Horses are commonly donated to collegiate equestrian programs.

Unique Campus Partnerships
The equestrian team will enjoy a special synergistic relationship with two of UC Davis’ world-leading academic organizations. The School of Veterinary Medicine will be involved in the provision of medical care to the horses, and the equestrian team will significantly benefit from the planned state-of-the-art Equine Performance Center. The equestrian team will also partner with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and collaborate with faculty and students who are involved in the Animal Science program, which hosts comprehensive undergraduate and graduate majors. 

The working group assigned to the task of recommending the addition of new women’s athletics opportunities followed a detailed, transparent, and thoughtful process. The group is appreciative of the patience of the UC Davis community as it worked to make the best recommendation possible for the present and future of UC Davis’ Athletics and the university overall. The group is pleased to uphold the longstanding UC Davis tradition of leadership in women’s athletics with the addition of beach volleyball and equestrian. 

Josh Dalavai, immediate past president, ASUCD
Kelly Ratliff, vice chancellor, Finance, Operations and Administration
Kevin Blue, director of athletics
Scott Carrell, Faculty Athletics Representative
Sheila O’Rourke, campus counsel
Wendi Delmendo, Title IX coordinator and chief compliance officer