Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter sent the following letter Oct. 6 to the Council of Deans and Vice Chancellors and the Athletics Advisory Committee on the subject of “reaffirming our commitment to Division I scholar-athleticism at UC Davis.”
Nearly 10 years have passed since our Intercollegiate Athletics program transitioned from NCAA Division II to competing at the Division I level. During this decade, UC Davis student-athletes and teams have achieved milestones and earned accomplishments that have made our community tremendously proud. Aggie teams have won 36 conference championships and Aggie student-athletes have been named All-Americans 75 times in Division I.
Most importantly, the academic performance of our student-athletes at UC Davis during the Division I era has continued to exemplify our institutional commitment to the scholar-athlete ideal. UC Davis student-athletes were enrolled in 74 different academic majors during the 2015-16 academic year and achieved a cumulative grade-point average that is nearly identical to the overall GPA of our undergraduate student body. UC Davis teams consistently lead their respective conferences in measures of academic performance, and our Division I student-athletes continue to graduate at a rate identical to the general undergraduate population.
I’m writing to you today to reaffirm our institutional commitment to competitive Division I intercollegiate athletics at UC Davis. We are moving forward under the leadership of our new athletics director, Dr. Kevin Blue, into an era of athletics at UC Davis that will be characterized by a reinforced commitment to the scholar-athlete ideal, increased Division I competitive success and a progressive manner of operating in intercollegiate athletics.
It is both possible and desirable to achieve competitive success in athletics while concurrently fostering an environment for student-athletes to perform academically at an elite level. There are many excellent universities in NCAA Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) that are institutionally committed to competitive scholar-athleticism — in particular, the universities in the Ivy League. Going forward at UC Davis, we will strive to nationally exemplify how an academically rigorous and accessible public university in Division I FCS can successfully embody the scholar-athlete ideal.
As we plot a course for UC Davis Intercollegiate Athletics to thrive over the long term, there are a number of strategic and philosophical matters for us to address presently. Accordingly, I have charged Athletics Director Blue, in consultation with campus stakeholders, including students, faculty and administrators, to perform an analysis and deliver to me by the end of winter quarter a report with recommendations on the following:
1. A clear definition of institutional success for Division I intercollegiate athletics at UC Davis. It is expected that our definition of success will reflect our long-standing institutional commitment to scholar-athleticism — i.e., the concurrent pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics.
2. A plan to enhance the financial model that will help Intercollegiate Athletics achieve and sustain a financially strong position over the long term.
3. A plan to improve our Intercollegiate Athletics facilities, particularly as it relates to providing additional space for functions pertinent to student-athlete welfare such as sports medicine, academic support, and strength and conditioning.
Intercollegiate Athletics at UC Davis is a catalyst for institutional pride and an important connection point to our university for many alumni. In addition, our athletics program makes an important external impact by serving as a visible example of the scholar-athlete ideal for young people in our community and state. More than three-quarters of a million high school students in California participate in interscholastic sports, along with hundreds of thousands of students in junior high school and elementary school, and it is important for all of these students — along with their parents, coaches and other influential adults — to realize that striving for excellence in both school and sports is worthwhile. A student need not choose between, for example, plant sciences and pitcher, and the academic and competitive accomplishments of UC Davis student-athletes help to reinforce this philosophy of scholar-athleticism throughout our region and state.
Thank you to everyone who has supported UC Davis Athletics in the past and established the bedrock of Aggie Pride from which we will build going forward. And most of all, thank you to our Aggie student-athletes who continue to represent UC Davis with such distinction. I look forward to seeing many of you at games this year.