Bruin Soccer Women Kick Up Fuss Over Club-Sport Status

Times Staff Writer

What’s hot and what’s not? The UCLA women’s soccer team is both.

The team, coached by UCLA senior Afshin Ghotbi, a one-time Glendale High School star, had a hot record of 19-0-2 last year and is a more-than-warm 9-4-1 this season, including winning the championship of the All-Cal Tournament for teams from the various UC campuses.

However, women’s soccer is not a varsity sport at UCLA but instead is one of about 15 club sports administered by the University Recreation Administration. Among other club sports are men’s and women’s rugby, lacrosse, ice hockey, badminton, sailing, snow and water skiing and surfing.

Being so good yet not having the status and financing of a varsity sport is upsetting to members of the current team, who say that for the last few years they have unsuccessfully been petitioning the UCLA administration to give them varsity status.


Matter of Money

Judith Holland, senior associate director of women’s intercollegiate athletics, said there isn’t enough money to go around.

When the women’s soccer team asked to become the university’s 11th women’s varsity sport last year, said Holland, the cost was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 a year, and that was “really not enough for all they wanted to do.” She said that with coaches’ salaries, travel and medical and academic support systems, it would cost more like $50,000.

Although the university has a “moral obligation” to provide equality of opportunity for women’s sports, Holland said, and is “dedicated to a full program in athletics and the needs of the student body, it is not always possible to meet them.”


She said serious problems in financing both men’s and women’s athletics resulted from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1984 decision that ended NCAA control of college football telecasts. “Even though we’re on (television) more, there is less money” because television has become a buyer’s market for college football.

Others Seek Status

Holland said women’s soccer is not the only club sport that would like varsity status. The men’s and women’s fencing teams also asked for such recognition last year. She said the university is doing a “program analysis to keep all the sports we have now (including 13 men’s and the 10 women’s varsity sports). It’s not fair to say, ‘Let’s add a sport’ when the future is so uncertain with the sports we have now.”

Tara Sweeney of San Jose and Michelle Millea of Manhattan Beach, senior co-captains of the women’s soccer squad, say they are certain what will happen to their sport if it doesn’t become a varsity program.


Sweeney said that, by keeping women’s soccer as a club sport, the administration is “denying us competition. What’s going to happen is that the program is going to die out.” Millea, who is majoring in civil engineering, said soccer has been so important to her that it “has kept me in school.”

Because they do not receive athletic scholarships, players say they have to pay their own way to games on the road, and some have to work at part-time jobs to do so.

Cashier and Waitress

Junior forward Jamie Queen, the team’s leading scorer as of last week with 11 goals, said she has a part-time job as a restaurant cashier. Senior Carrie Newburn, who tops the squad in assists with 13 as of last week and 25 last year, said she works as a waitress.


Queen, of Manhattan Beach, and Newburn, of Hermosa Beach, say they would like to have the scholarships that go with varsity sports but that they play soccer on a club team because they love the game.

Queen said she thinks that UCLA could give the team varsity recognition even without supplying funds for the squad. She and Ghotbi, a volunteer coach who played briefly as a walk-on for the men’s soccer team, argue that women’s soccer is the only club sport at the school that is not “matched” with a men’s sport. UCLA fields men’s and women’s varsity teams in gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, tennis, track, cross country, golf and crew. Softball is the women’s equivalent of men’s baseball, and men-only varsity sports besides soccer are football and water polo.

Newburn said that every UC campus has a women’s varsity soccer team except UCLA, Santa Cruz and Riverside.

Play for Strong Ajax


Queen and Newburn love soccer enough to also play for a top women’s amateur team, Ajax, in a South Bay league, the United States of America Ladies’ Soccer Organization. Ajax (pronounced AY-ox), named after a Dutch men’s professional team, was the U.S. Soccer Federation representative last February at a tournament in Rio de Janeiro called the “Little World Cup.”

The U.S. team lost the championship game to West Germany after several wins, including one over Radar, the host Brazilian team that had not lost in 80 games, according to Lou Kaufman, the team’s administrative manager. Kaufman’s daughter Melanie, a UCLA junior, plays for Ajax and for the Bruins.

Kaufman, who said he played soccer at West Point and is an engineer and an aerospace program manager, said Ajax depends on its UCLA players, including sophomore forward Kris Fontana of Villa Park, junior goalkeeper Lori Sase of Irvine, senior midfielder Mary Campos of Downey and Sweeney. But if Bruin games conflict with those of Ajax, he said, UCLA has first call on the players.

“We’ve lost one game this year, and we had only 11 players because the UCLA players were not available,” he said. “If we have our 18 players, we are pretty tough. But if you have 11, you do the best you can.”


Inspires His Players

Ghotbi, 21, who was born in Iran and is majoring in electronic engineering, coaches without pay, and the players who were interviewed praised him for giving his best.

A varsity soccer player and team captain at Glendale High School for two years, Ghotbi can apparently inspire his charges to make sacrifices. This year goalie Sase injured her leg when her motor scooter collided with a car at an intersection on campus.

Ghotbi asked sophomore midfielder Pam England of Woodland Hills to fill in as goalkeeper, and England has been a capable replacement. She took over the sometimes thankless goalie job even though she was the team’s leading scorer at the time with four goals in three games.