What's hot and what's not?
The UCLA women's soccer team with a decided South Bay flavor is both.
The team, coached by UCLA senior Afshin Ghotbi for most of the last two seasons, had a hot record of 19-0-2 last year and is a more-than-warm 9-4-1 this season, including winning the championship of the All-Cal Tournament for teams from the various UC campuses.
However, women's soccer is not a varsity sport at UCLA but instead is one of about 15 club sports administered by the University Recreation Administration. Among other URA club sports are men's and women's rugby, lacrosse, ice hockey, badminton, sailing, snow and water skiing and surfing.
Being so good yet not having the status and financing of a varsity sport is upsetting to members of the current team, who say they have been petitioning the UCLA administration to give them varsity status with no luck for the last few years.
Matter of Money
Judith Holland, senior associate director of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics, said that the problem is there isn't enough money to go around.
When the women's soccer team asked to become the university's 11th women's varsity sport last year, said Holland, they estimated it would cost between $20,000 and $30,000 a year and that was "really not enough for all they wanted to do." She said that with coaches' salaries, travel and medical and academic support systems, it would cost more like $50,000.
Although the university has a "moral obligation" to provide equality of opportunity for women's sports, Holland said, and is "dedicated to a full program in athletics and the needs of the student body, it is not always possible to meet them."
She said the "big problem" in financing both men's and women's athletics resulted from the U.S. Supreme Court's 1984 decision that ended NCAA control of college football telecasts. "Even though we're on (television) more, there is less money" because television has become a buyer's market for college football.
Others Seek Status
Holland said women's soccer is not the only club sport that would like varsity status, that the men's and women's fencing teams also asked for such recognition last year. She said the university is doing a "program analysis to keep all the sports we have now (including 13 men's and the 10 women's varsity sports). It's not fair to say 'Let's add a sport' when the future is so uncertain with the sports we have now."
Tara Sweeney of San Jose and Michelle Millea of Manhattan Beach, senior co-captains of the women's soccer squad, say they are certain what will happen to their sport if it doesn't become a varsity program.
Sweeney said that, by keeping women's soccer as a club sport, the administration is "denying us competition. What's going to happen is that the program is going to die out." Millea, who is majoring in civil engineering, said that soccer has been so important to her that it "has kept me in school."
Because they do not receive athletic scholarships, players say they have to pay their own way to games on the road and that some work at part-time jobs to do so.
Junior forward Jamie Queen, the former El Camino College star and the team's leading scorer this season with 11 goals as of last week, said she has a part-time job as a restaurant cashier. Senior Carrie Newburn, who tops the squad in assists with 13 as of last week and 25 last year, said she works as a waitress.
Queen and Newburn say they would like to have the scholarships that go with varsity sports but that they play soccer on a club team because they love the game.
Queen said she thinks that UCLA could give the team varsity recognition even without supplying funds for the squad. She and Ghotbi, a volunteer coach who played briefly as a walk-on for the men's soccer team, argue that women's soccer is the only club sport at the school that is not "matched" with a men's sport. UCLA fields men's and women's varsity teams in gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, tennis, track, cross country, golf and crew. Softball is the women's equivalent of men's baseball, and men-only varsity sports besides soccer are football and water polo.
Newburn said that every UC campus has a women's varsity soccer team, except UCLA, Santa Cruz and Riverside.
Play for Strong Ajax
Queen, of Manhattan Beach, and Newburn, of Hermosa Beach, love soccer enough to also play for a top women's amateur team, Ajax, in a South Bay league, the United States of America Ladies' Soccer Organization. Ajax (pronounced AYE-ox), named after a Dutch men's professional team, was the U.S. Soccer Federation representative last February at a tournament in Rio de Janeiro called the "Little World Cup."
The U.S. team lost the championship game to West Germany after several wins, including one over Radar, the host Brazilian team that hadn't lost in 80 games, according to Lou Kaufman, the team's administrative manager. Kaufman's daughter Melanie, a UCLA junior, plays for Ajax and for the Bruins.