Oct. 8, 2004
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- I never thought I'd sit here again.
The last time I sat in the press box at UCSB's Harder Stadium, in December 1992, it was to cover the final intercollegiate football game in the school's not-so-illustrious football history. The Gauchos -- a Division III independent left to barnstorm from Sonoma to Azusa to Chico and back -- won a hard-fought game. Or maybe they lost. I can't remember. (It's been that long.) Later that school year, the student body voted the team out of existence, choosing to cut off the meager funds that had kept the program afloat rather than pay the annual equivalent of three Monster burritos from Isla Vista's Mecca, Freebird's. It sounds petty, short-sighted, absurd. But they were damn good burritos.
Such was life at UCSB, where truth be told, we couldn't be bothered to care much about the school's sports teams. Oh, sure, back in the day, when the UNLV teams swaggered into town with Larry Johnson and Stacy Augmon, Greg Anthony and Moses Scurry, and the ESPN cameras arrived to watch us toss tortillas from the Thunderdome rafters and raise hell after the occasional upset, the student body showed. We were early-'90s NCAA basketball media whores, and that was good enough.
Athletics were really no more than the 26th (or maybe 27th) most compelling reason to attend this Nirvana. I've often been accused of shameless pro-California shilling, but how could you not want to go to school here? This town is God's country. Or Allah's country, or Yahweh's country, or Zeus' country: No matter the deity, he/she/it clearly had his/her/its retirement in mind when conceiving of Santa Barbara, hard by the Pacific, Channel Islands and dolphin pods filling its horizon. So a school located here, well ... its athletic teams never had a chance, competing with surfing and the weather and the 60-40 female-to-male ratio (all at a place that consistently ranks among the top-20 public schools in the land). UCSB sports were network, and everything else was cable. What would you have watched?