Just over a month ago, UCSC undergrads voted to pass a $38.50 quarterly fee to support athletics for the next 25 years. The effort was a long, two-year process, especially given the mixed feedback that student campaigners say they got from skeptics who believe OPERS, the school’s athletic department, mismanages its funding.
The fee will generate about $1.1 million for OPERS each year, while Chancellor George Blumenthal pledged an additional $500,000 annually.
Coaches and athletes tabled and petitioned, encouraging students to vote for Measure 68. Now they feel betrayed after learning that all seven of the NCAA assistant coaches and two head coaches have been laid off and another pressured into retiring.
“I feel sorry for the students that worked hard on the referendum and were deceived about what was going to happen,” says head swim coach Kim Musch, whose position as aquatics director was terminated on June 23, prompting him to step down as coach. “[The administration] knew during the referendum that this was the plan, because you don’t develop a management plan in two weeks and then do this.”
After a nearly 20-year career, Musch was offered a position for less than 40 percent of his previous salary as solely the head coach of swimming and diving, a move that would have jeopardized his retirement.
The coaches were given a week’s notice at most—some only two days—and told to clear out their desks by Friday, June 30. “I don’t care if it follows every policy, there are things that are morally wrong to do to people,” Musch says.
Nine other head coaches were offered three-year contracts that refine their roles to only the scope of their respective teams, specifying that each position may be terminated at any time, with or without cause. To sign, the coaches must waive all of their procedural rights.
“When you are running a department on fear, and everybody is at-will, you can’t be trusting and honest with management at that point,” says Musch. “I am worried about the coaches remaining because they will be working in an atmosphere of fear.”
UCSC also laid off women’s soccer coach Emily Scheese, as well as Jamey Harris, the cross-country and track and field coach. Those decisions came after “a thorough and deliberate review of all the NCAA team programs,” according to an email sent to the school’s sports community from OPERS Executive Director Andrea Willer, who referred GT to UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez-Jason for comment.
Scheese and Harris had both previously received coach-of-the-year honors and were respected and loved by athletes, student sources say. Musch and other coaches say there was never any review process.
But going forward, Hernandez-Jason says that, by having coaches focus more directly on their respective teams, the university can allocate tasks to other staffers.
Since 2013, there have been nearly 40 people in OPERS that have left or been laid off. Of these positions, at least 18 have not been filled.
“These decisions were made during the summer without us there,” says third-year soccer player and Student Athlete Advisory Committee Co-chair Kayla McCord. “These decisions were made on the heels of a victory that was greatly impacted by each of the coaches involved.”
With fall sports practices scheduled to start within two months, the soccer, swimming and cross-country seasons are quickly approaching, and their athletes will need new coaches.