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UCLA's Non-Revenue Sports Feeling Uneasy

August 26, 1993|GARY KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The UCLA women's gymnastics team was granted a reprieve last week when, facing the threat of a gender equity lawsuit, UCLA officials announced the suspension of its decision to eliminate the program after the coming season.

That might have brought a temporary sigh of relief to the women's gymnastics program and its supporters, but in the aftermath of what has transpired in the past few weeks, coaches of other non-revenue sports at UCLA say they will always consider their positions tenuous regardless of their programs' success.

UCLA announced Aug. 4 that is was eliminating men's swimming and men's and women's gymnastics after the 1993-94 academic year because of an athletic department budget deficit of $900,000. UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis said the cuts would enable the department to recover $670,000 in costs annually.

The decision was made based on the recommendation of the university's Athletics Administrative Review Task Force, which included students, administrators, faculty and alumni.

"It's a reality check for everybody," said Sue Enquist, who has been softball co-coach at UCLA for 15 years. "Being at UCLA, people think you're immune to these kinds of cuts. But all (coaches in non-revenue sports) were worried because we knew we were all potentially on that list."

The UCLA athletic department receives no state money. Sports are funded through revenue generated by football and men's basketball.

The recent cuts marked the second time in two years that UCLA has eliminated sports programs. Men's and women's crew were downgraded to club-level sports in 1991 and water polo was saved only because the program raised private funding.

UCLA, which at one time had nearly 30 sports programs, will have 22 this year. That total will decrease to 19 or 20 in 1994-95, depending on what happens to women's gymnastics. UC Berkeley, the only other Pacific 10 Conference school in the state system, will field 24 intercollegiate sports this year--13 men's and 11 women's.

UCLA men's programs include football, basketball, baseball, cross-country, track, golf, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, tennis, volleyball and water polo. Women's programs include basketball, softball, volleyball, track, cross-country, golf, gymnastics, swimming, tennis and soccer, which is being added this year.

"(The cuts) do create an uneasiness because you realize it could have been you," UCLA men's soccer Coach Sigi Schmid said. "But I don't think that's unique to UCLA. That's the status of college athletics."

Enquist agreed.

"If everybody looked at the big schools in the last four to six years, they would see that everyone has been cutting programs," Enquist said. "UCLA is just reacting to what is happening in the state of California."

Alumni from the UCLA men's swimming program have already begun to mobilize in an effort to save a program that has produced 18 Olympians. Former Olympian Robin Leamy said that if $6 million can be raised, the program can survive off the interest. Leamy was involved in a similar campaign that saved the water polo program.

"It's an uphill battle, but I'm sure we'll be able to pull this thing together," Leamy said.

Schmid said there is also a misconception about revenue generated by sports other than football and men's basketball. Schmid said the overall strength and success of UCLA's athletic teams is largely responsible, in the United States and abroad, for the popularity of merchandise bearing Bruin trademarks such as "UCLA," "UCLA Bruins," and the Bruin logo that produces revenue which helps provide services for all UCLA students.

Staff writer Theresa Smith Munoz contributed to this story.

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