This is a two-part article, with the first series of this article being the voice of the student athletes, the Quaker Campus will continue to do a thorough investigation to get both sides of the story.
Spring Break is a time for most students to leave their assignments at their desk and head out to the nearest beach or festival, without a worry on their mind. From March 16 – 25, many students left campus and enjoyed their well-deserved break with friends or family. However, not all of the student body were able to enjoy the warm sand or get a tan at the beach. Those playing for a Spring sport here at Whittier College had to get their tan playing two to three times a day and practicing in the sun for two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours a day.
As many of us Poets are aware, facilities like the Campus Inn (CI) are closed during Spring Break. This academic year, the CI was closed after dinner on March 15, and did not reopen until March 26 for breakfast. The Spot also closed on March 15, and did not open until evening hours on March 25. Because the CI was closed, Spring athletes were provided money from their coaches so players could eat over the break. Although this might seem fair, the QC found that athletes would either not eat or would have to ration out their money because not every team received the same amount for the week. In fact, some teams were given significantly less compared to other teams. This forced many players to figure out how they were going to support themselves over the long week so they could eat.
Is a week’s worth of food money really going to mean life or death for some of these athletes? Probably not. However, it does widen the gap of who is able to play sports at Whittier and which sports they are able to play. There are discrepancies as to how much each athletes were allocated this Spring Break, with the largest amount being $100 to both residential and commuter, to cover for three meals, Women’s Water Polo players, and the smallest being $60 to the residential Women’s Lacrosse Team.
Players from different teams also received their money at different times. Women’s Water Polo received their money the first weekend of break, Men’s Tennis received $30 on the first Saturday of the weekend and $45 on Tuesday, March 19; Women’s Lacrosse received their money the last weekend of break. Athletes were also not informed that they could be reimbursed for the money they spent on food out of their own pocket. According to Associate Athletic Director of Communication Lance Franey, “the amount that is given to athletes varies based on how many days the players have to be on break.” In terms of where the money comes from, “money for team budgets are allocated through the school,” said Franey.
Beyond breaks, DIII athletes have to contribute more time and more of their own money than athletes at a DI or II school. The difference between DI, DII, and DIII schools is the level of competitiveness, and the amount of athletic scholarships available at each level.
According to Next College Student Athlete, 56 percent of DI athletes receive an athletic scholarship, 60 percent of DII athletes, and no DIII athletes receive athletic scholarships. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) claims that the goal of DIII schools is to “minimize the conflicts between athletics and academics,” and to “help student-athletes progress toward graduation through shorter practices and playing seasons and regional competition that reduces time away from academic studies.”
Because a cornerstone of being a DIII athlete is a well-rounded college experience, DIII programs only receive 3.18 percent of NCAA revenue annually compared to 4.37 percent allocated to DII schools. While the exact percentage of revenue is not available for DI schools, based off of other revenue distribution documents, the percentage appears to be about four times as much-a difference of about $4 million annually.
DI and II schools tend to be bigger, with better financed athletic departments, leaving DIII athletes to shoulder more individual costs. “You are in a DIII college — unless your team is nationally ranked. . . [which is] good – but [we’re] not in a DI [where] winning is everything,” said fourth-year tennis player Chris Palacio. “Whatever sport you play, [you play at a DIII school] because you get to enjoy the sport more,” Palacio continued. “But it sucks because a lot of it at the DIII level seems [to] come straight out our own everything — time, money. We have to sacrifice a lot more.” (For more on what it means to be a DIII athlete, see page 11 for DIII week.)
The amount allocated to Men’s Tennis comes out to just $10 a day for seven days. If we divided that $10 dollars for the three meals athletes are going to eat in a day, that means they are only able to spend just over three dollars a meal. Most students are familiar with being on a tight budget, but are still used to having a meal plan if they live on campus. “I’ve done it personally in my own life. I can save money with that amount and still have some left over, but you wouldn’t be eating healthy as much [by eating fast food] or you’ll be cooking a lot,” said Palacio on having to be confined to such a small amount. “So it’s like one or the other and you’re playing match after match after match. You have practice. You have to play again. You don’t want to do anything. You don’t want to cook at all. You just want to eat and sleep – take a shower, go to sleep.” Men’s Tennis actually plays the bulk of their matches for the season during Spring Break, when schools from the East Coast are visiting in California, and on an average match day the athletes can expect to be outside from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. warming up, stretching, playing, and then breaking down the court at the end of the day.
Palacio earned extra money during Spring Break by re-stringing tennis rackets for a visiting school, so, for him, the amount he was given was not as difficult to live off of. However, third-year Women’s Lacrosse Defender Emily Montgomery was not able to work at her off-campus job due to a hand injury. “I basically lived off of tomato juice and veggie straws for the week. Sometimes, I would go to Ralph’s and get whatever was cheapest,” said Montgomery. “I couldn’t pick up shifts [because of my injured hand]. Because I was eating cheap, junk food, [it was] definitely not ideal for when you’re practicing for hours and playing games.”
Women’s Lacrosse received 40 percent less for break than Women’s Water Polo, but the difference when accounting for seven days, three meals a day, the high end of the spectrum comes out to $4.50 a meal, and the low end comes out to less than $2 a meal. “$100 is not a lot of money, which I don’t think is the coaches’ fault. They are not in charge of how much we get,” said third-year Attacker Sawyer Bellville. Bellville is a commuter, but still received a stipend, while many commuters on other teams did not. “We probably ate fast food every single day. We would get Taco Bell, or Jack in the Box, or go get boba — we just ate what was there.”
Like Bellville, all the athletes interviewed in this investigation mentioned that it wasn’t their coach’s fault, and that they appreciated how their coaches often went the extra mile by bringing them breakfast or snacks, so that they could stretch the money they had a bit farther. Montgomery even said that she initially thought the stipend she received at the end of the break came out of her coach’s pocket, not the team’s budget. Overall, many athletes shared confusion about the entire process and how it was communicated to them. “I think it could be a little bit more organized, and funds could be allocated better to support our needs overall because we do make so much of the population, and we work hard,” said Bellville. “Even if people complain about the CI not being the healthiest or not having good options, there’s vegetables, there are grains, there’s bread. It sustains you for a week full of intense training.”
When asked what they would like to see done differently in the future, the athletes I spoke to were split over whether the CI should be open during break or not. However, they all agreed that, if it was going to be closed, they should be reimbured for the cost of a CI meal. A 15-meal a-week plan for the CI costs $3,129 a semester. Divided by 15 weeks in a semester (from when the Residence Halls open to when they close, minus Spring Break), and then divided by 15 again for the 15 meals per week, the price per meal comes out to $13.90.
Each player stated in their interview that this issue goes far beyond having trouble finding and paying for food while on break. This larger issue begins with those who are making the decision of what percentage each department at Whittier College gets. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” is a phrase older generations say when giving advice on being grateful for the opportunities one gives you. These athletes are given the chance to play a sport at the collegiate level — this is a great opportunity. However, there is not much to bite on if an athlete does not have the funds to support themselves.