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Three Teams Go in UCLA Cutback : Budget: Men's swimming and men's and women's gymnastics feel the effect of deficit.

August 05, 1993|DANNY ROBBINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a move tied to the state's financial crisis, UCLA announced Wednesday that it will eliminate three successful athletic programs--men's swimming and men's and women's gymnastics--after the 1993-94 academic year.

The university's decision apparently means the end of three programs that have spawned dozens of Olympic athletes, including several gold medalists.

Peter Dalis, UCLA athletic director, said eliminating the sports was a necessary step in dealing with an athletic-department budget deficit that stands at $900,000.

Cutting the programs will allow the department to recover $670,000 in costs annually, most of which involves funding athletic scholarships, Dalis said.

In addition, he said, the school plans to cut about $100,000 in costs associated with football. Areas likely to be affected include recruiting, travel and clerical expenses, he said.

"This is an indication of the fragile state of intercollegiate athletics today," Dalis said. "We've had soaring costs and flat revenues. We have eliminated some administrative staff. But that's not enough."

The decision to drop the three programs was made by Dalis and Chancellor Charles Young, based on the recommendation of the university's Athletics Administrative Review Task Force. The panel, which included UCLA students, administrators, faculty and alumni, was formed by Young in January to assess the future of the athletic department in light of its financial problems.

The group's report, made public Wednesday, concluded:

"The task force regrets that any program cuts have become necessary and well understands that the reduction of the overall UCLA athletic program puts UCLA's tradition of athletic achievement at risk.

"However, for the task force to acquiesce in the continued institutional support of the department's deficit, particularly during this period of the state's fiscal crisis and its devastating effect on UCLA academic programs, would be to unreasonably, indeed, unconscionably, confuse the priorities of this great institution."

The decision was greeted by shock and dismay from UCLA coaches and athletes.

"I think it's a mistake," said Art Shurlock, who has produced eight Olympians and 12 national champions in 29 years as UCLA's men's gymnastics coach. "We brought a lot of positive exposure to UCLA. It's just sad to see this happen."

Said gymnast Chainey Umphrey, who just completed his senior season at UCLA: "When I first heard about (the decision), I was utterly stunned. Since then, my feeling is more embarrassment that a school like UCLA would just drop a program like this. Right now, we're in turmoil."

Ron Ballatore, UCLA's men's swimming coach since 1979, said he was "dumbfounded" by the decision.

Noting that his program has turned out 18 Olympians and produced a graduation rate of 98%, he said: "I've had a great run at UCLA. It's very hard to understand how you could drop swimming in Southern California."

Said Dalis: "I'm sure some coaches are bitter and angry. I don't blame them."

It's the second time in two years that UCLA has cut athletic programs. In 1991, the school downgraded men's and women's crew to club sports and attempted to eliminate its men's water polo program. That program has survived through outside funding.

The UCLA athletic department receives no state money and essentially supports itself through revenue generated by football and men's basketball.

That balance has been upset lately by a decline in football revenue derived from television income and ticket sales. Dalis has reported to school administrators that season-ticket sales for the 1993 season will be approximately 2,800 fewer than last year.

In addition, increases in student fees and housing costs have driven up scholarship costs.

UCLA has also had to balance its athletic budget problems against federal guidelines mandating gender equity.

The school now has 19 sports programs--10 for men and nine for women--including women's soccer, which will be added this year.

According to Judith Holland, senior associate athletic director, athletic participation at UCLA breaks down to 65% men and 35% women. Dalis said the school hopes to raise that to at least 60-40.

* RELATED STORY: B3

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