We’ve seen Athletic Directors let go for numerous reasons; bad hires, loss of institutional control, more nefarious reasons. But one thing we hadn’t seen before is a termination purely for the sake of saving money. That is, until now.
Other than having one of the truly unique mascots in college athletics, the Banana Slugs, UC Santa Cruz isn’t unlike many small athletic departments. They have an operating budget of roughly $1.4 million a year but cost roughly $2 million to operate. That’s quite a shortfall for their program, and reason to be concerned if you are a student or administrator. It seems that every few months another athletic department announces it is shutting its doors, and UCSC sets up as a prime candidate for the next announcement.
That’s exactly why they brought in Cliff Dochterman.
His original task as Director of Athletics, Sports and Intramurals, according to Ryan Masters of the Santa Cruz Sentinal, was to ween the program off of central campus funds and instead find a way to support it through student fees. In February, students rejected that plan, or at least the $351 version of it. In October, after two years, Dochterman was relieved of his duties.
On paper, this whole series of events seems pretty cut and dry. Dochterman (seen left) was specifically for a given task. Through an unknown measure of fault, he failed that task. He was subsequently terminated. The natural next step in the process here would usually be to find his replacement and start over. But that is clearly not the case.
Dochterman’s responsibilities are now split between executive director of the Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports Andrea Willer and Associate Director of Athletics Collin Pregliasco. There is no plan to hire a new AD, with Willer stating she cut the position because “it had the least impact [on] the overall program.”
Imagine that. The Athletic Director, the leader of your department, the person tasked with guiding your program. Except Dochterman clearly wasn’t expected to lead this program. He was just asked to make it break even. Now, the money saved by not backfilling his position will be diverted back into the department.
Without knowing the inner workings of the UC Santa Cruz administration, or the quality of the overall job Dochterman did in his time there, it’s difficult to pass judgment. What’s clear though, is that his role was never truly one of an athletic director. That, and this is a program likely breathing it’s last few breaths.
Whether Willer did the right thing to save athletics at UC Santa Cruz will have to be determined some other time, but right now, it doesn’t look promising.