College football is a cherished rite of fall for millions of sports fans - for better and for worse.

The games attract scores of fans and plenty of attention to the universities involved. Sometimes, however, the many controversies surrounding big-time college sports cast a shadow over the entire enterprise.

So it is an interesting contrast for me to attend a Cal State Monterey Bay athletic event. The play is spirited; the athleticism is impressive; the fans are enthusiastic. And the scale and spirit of the activity seem to be absolutely in keeping with the true mission of a university like ours.

While some critics of big-time college sports deride the term student-athlete, in Division II athletics, it clearly applies. Our athletes are students first. Their participation in athletics is a valued part of their college experience, but does not define it.

Of course, that difference in focus doesn’t change the fact that it is great to see the Otters win games. As a soccer fan of long-standing, I have enjoyed the strong play of our teams this fall. The men’s and women’s cross country and golf teams are off to excellent starts, as is women’s volleyball. They are all continuing to build a tradition of athletic excellence at CSUMB.

Even more important, our Otter athletes do outstanding work in the classroom and the community. Last week, Regan Portiousfrom our women’s soccer team was honored with the CSU Trustees Award for Outstanding Achievement, one of the CSU’s most coveted academic awards, at the Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. The award recognizes superior academic accomplishment, leadership and community service.

Taking nothing away from fans who pack college stadiums on Saturday to cheer on their teams, but it is hard to beat spending a beautiful fall weekend on the Monterey Peninsula watching the likes of Regan Portious and her mates making us all proud to support our Otters.

An important fundraiser for our Otter athletic programs, thePresident’s Cup, will be held Monday, October 7 at 1 p.m. at Corral de Tierra Country Club. It’s the 17th annual event, quite a long history for a campus as young as ours. Money raised through the President’s Cup goes toward scholarship support for our more than 250 student-athletes in our 12 NCAA Division II sports. It is a great event on a beautiful course and I invite all interested to register.

Chancellor’s visit: I would like to thank everyone who took the time to meet and exchange ideas with CSU Chancellor Timothy White on his visit to campus this week. He commented to me about the thoughtful questions he received during our public forum on Wednesday and I think the meetings he attended gave him a real understanding of the direction our campus is moving. Chancellor White has made a strong commitment to maintaining close ties with each of the 23 CSU campuses, and positive experiences like this one certainly reinforce the wisdom of that effort.

Pay it Forward and First Tee: Last month, I had the opportunity to speak at an on-campus event for the Pay it Forward scholarship program. Through its close association with First Tee of Monterey County, the program is providing educational opportunities and building ties between our students and our community. It was featured in a nationally broadcast Golf Channel report that highlights its continued success. My congratulations to the organizers.

Covered California: The CSU has launched a Health Insurance Education project in connection with the start-up of the Affordable Care Act. There will also be a number of events on campus through which information will be provided about ways to become insured through the ACA. Particularly for the uninsured, this information is vital. I encourage you to take the time to learn about your options.

Literacy summit: An overwhelming body of research indicates that many students who fall behind in their early elementary grades never catch up to their peers. That makes it particularly disturbing to note that nearly two-thirds of Monterey County students are not proficient readers by the time they complete third grade.

The Literacy Campaign of Monterey County is organizing the county’s first Summit on Literacy and the Economy on Oct. 25 on our campus. This is a collaborative effort to confront a critical community problem and I am pleased our university can host it.

As always, I welcome your comments on this newsletter or on any issues facing the university. You may direct them to president@csumb.edu.

 

Eduardo M. Ochoa

President, Cal State Monterey Bay