LOS ANGELES — Matt Taylor and Steve Lucas share a UCLA dormitory room as well a common problem among college volleyball players.
How the heck do we pay the rent?
Lucas and Taylor, redshirts at UCLA, are among hundreds of players paying for lessons in the economics of a struggling Division I men's sport:
--Scholarships are as hard to come by as an easy day at practice.
--NCAA rules prohibit players from working during the school year, even if they're on partial scholarships, which have become the norm at most schools.
--Thousands of dollars in student loans, grants and summer jobs are often the only way to pay for tuition, books and living expenses that partial scholarships don't cover.
When it comes to stretching scholarship money, Taylor and Lucas, former Huntington Beach High teammates, consider themselves somewhat fortunate.
Taylor, a freshman, receives a partial scholarship, but pays most of the $8,500 needed for tuition and housing costs through summer jobs and help from his parents.
"Truth is, if I would have known earlier that I couldn't get a full scholarship for volleyball, I wouldn't have gotten into it," said Taylor, The Times Orange County player of the year last season. "I wouldn't have put in all the time on volleyball. I would have stuck with basketball, where I could have a full scholarship."
Lucas, a sophomore transfer from UC Irvine, is paying his own way as a walk-on with the third-ranked Bruins.
"I gave up a full scholarship at Irvine," said Lucas, a 1990 all-county player. "I was frustrated after I didn't make the Olympic Festival team last summer, and I realized that if you're not playing for a big name, you won't go very far. This is a sport of small circles."
And, at some places, deep pockets. Players at private universities such as USC, Pepperdine and Stanford face tuition costs between $15,000 and $23,000 a year.
Dain Blanton, a sophomore starter at fourth-ranked Pepperdine, receives about $18,000 a year in scholarship money. Pepperdine Coach Marv Dunphy helped Blanton apply for a grant to cover the rest of his college expenses.
"Marv got me the best deal because I'm not paying anything now," said Blanton, a former Laguna Beach High standout. "I think it helped that I'm a minority, and whatever I could get with a grant would free some money for someone else. Some of the guys have to pay a lot, but everyone gets some sort of aid, academic or something."
Only 23 Division I schools field men's volleyball teams, and the NCAA will reduce from five to 4 1/2 the number of scholarships the teams can offer for the 1993-94 school year. The reduction was part of an overall athletic cut.
There are 273 Division I women's programs, and teams offer as many as 12 scholarships. The NCAA considers women's volleyball a "major sport" and was therefore exempt from the recent cuts.
Not surprisingly, the men's scholarship reductions haven't been popular with coaches at the Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. tournament, which starts today at UC Irvine.
Most of the coaches have been strapped with limited budgets and scholarships for years, and the reduction, they say, won't help any.
"I don't think the cut will have much of an effect on recruiting," UCLA Coach Al Scates said. "But it's still kind of ridiculous to cut it from five to 4 1/2.
"And I think it's ridiculous that a sport that starts six players gets only 4 1/2 scholarships. Basketball starts five and gets 13 scholarships. I don't think the coaches know what to do with all of them."
The scholarship reduction won't have an impact on schools such as 17th-ranked UC Irvine and top-ranked Cal State Long Beach, which are already well below the NCAA limit.
Long Beach, the defending NCAA men's champion, offers 2 1/2 men's scholarships and 12 women's.
UC Irvine offers 7 1/4 women's scholarships but only 1 1/2 for the men's team, a self-funded program for the past year.
"In the worse-case scenario, we might lose our (men's) scholarships for next year," UC Irvine Coach Bill Ashen said. "We're self-funded, and our fund-raising efforts haven't been very good.
"When we started the program six years ago, we spun it off the success of the U.S. national team. Now that the focus is on them with all the players coming back, we hope to gain momentum off it. I just wish UCI could clear its budget up and help us out again."
Cal State Fullerton announced in January that it was cutting women's volleyball, but the team, after filing a lawsuit claiming the move violated state sex education codes prohibiting sex discrimination, won a court-ordered preliminary injunction that temporarily reinstated the sport.
The Titans do not have a men's volleyball program.
Most coaches divide the scholarships among the players, so the money isn't always enough. And NCAA rules allow only walk-on players to hold jobs during the season.
"It makes it harder on the sport and on the players," said UCLA's Dan Landry, a walk-on who works part-time delivering baked goods.