School spirit wanted
New AS Athletics Chair focused on generating support for Torero sports
Noah Hilton | Sports Editor | The USD Vista
MK Clancy — her first name comes from an unconventional shortening of Mary Catherine to Mary Kate — isn’t one to enjoy an empty schedule.
She is an athlete on the school’s swimming team, competing in the butterfly, backstroke, and individual medley while often posting times that are among the Toreros’ best at meets.
She is a junior at the University of San Diego whose performance in the classroom was good enough to garner recognition as a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Scholar Athlete last year.
This year, she also happens to be a politician, having been elected as Associated Students’ (AS) first Athletics Chair, a newly-created position tasked with bridging the gap between the student body and the school’s athletics department.
It all adds up to a calendar crammed with meetings, practices, and classes, leaving little time for sleep or relaxation.
“A typical day for me starts with swim practice at 5:45 a.m.,” Clancy said. “I’ll have three to four classes after that, then afternoon practice. Some days, I have a night class as well. In between, I’m trying to squeeze in some time for homework and AS stuff when I get the chance. During the week, there are zero hours of leisure though. The whole thing probably isn’t sustainable for more than a year.”
The schedule is one Clancy decided to take on after fulfilling responsibilities similar to the Athletics Chair’s through her role on the swim team.
“I learned about the position in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC),” Clancy said. “One athlete from each team attends SAAC meetings, and we talk about a broad range of topics — athletic department improvements, community service, etc. [Former AS President] TJ Hodges brought it up at one of the meetings and it sounded like something I could do pretty well.”
Even with that external encouragement, Clancy said she remained unsure about whether she actually wanted to run for the position.
“It’s kind of funny because I remember going back and forth about if I wanted to do it,” Clancy said. “I had seen presidential candidates give speeches in front of the Student Life Pavilion (SLP), and I thought I was going to have to do that, too. TJ said no one else was running though, so I figured I might as well throw my name in.”
In a hectic final day of campaigning, Clancy had to hurry to collect the votes necessary for election.
“I was told I needed 50 signatures to qualify for the position,” Clancy said. “I ended up grabbing a couple of teammates and we ran around the SLP that day getting random people to sign the sheet we’d been given. At that point, I was just figuring, ‘Hey, why not?’”
Clancy gathered the signatures in time, and was quickly thrust into a role that, by all accounts, is still deciding on its own identity.
“We’re definitely still in the process of figuring everything out,” Clancy said. “When AS created the position, they gave it four main tasks. First, I’m a liaison between the students, AS, and the athletics department. Second, I run the Bull Pit [the organization that helps maintain the student section at USD sporting events]. Third, I’m supposed to create a school spirit task force and lead its meetings with different student groups and administrators. Finally, I lead general school spirit initiatives — meeting with the athletic director and coaches, helping to organize events to bring students out to games, things like that.”
The directives are certainly generic, and their lack of specificity is something Clancy acknowledged has been a challenge in the early going.
“I feel like a lot of my role this year just involves figuring out the role for the future,” Clancy said. “I’m doing what I can to make some things happen on campus too, though. For example, I really want to focus on rebuilding the Bull Pit. I feel like it kind of disintegrated last year, and I would love to get a solid group of people together who will actually be involved at games. From there, I plan on sectioning them off into committees that will focus on certain parts of campus — Greek life, student organizations — and come up with some ideas to get more people in the stands at games.”
That endeavor — filling the stands at Torero sporting events — is something that has proven difficult for years here at Alcalá Park.
“It’s almost like a microcosm of what the Padres and Chargers have dealt with,” Clancy said. “San Diego has a lot to offer, and that’s on top of the work people have to do for their classes here. It makes it tough to generate interest, for sure. We’re trying to focus on the underclassmen so that they keep coming back to games the entire time that they’re at USD.”
Clancy hasn’t been alone in trying to solve the school spirit issues that have plagued the campus, however. Because of her simultaneous participation in both AS and athletics, she has gained the support of other athletes looking to make similar improvements.
“It’s been cool because once the position was created, other athletes have been approaching me about how to create school spirit,” Clancy said. “It’s really sparked an interest in trying to create solutions and get involved. Sports teams have always been very supportive of other teams, because we know each other and know what it’s like to not have anyone at our games, so it’s been great to see that carry over. I definitely think it’s a positive movement.”
While Clancy hasn’t personally organized any tangible results during her first month on the job, she does point to a couple of positives that have already resulted from her role in student government.
“I can’t really take any credit for this, because I just assisted, but the Olé Weekend tailgate that was put on by the athletic department went very well, and we ended up having the highest attendance the school has ever seen at a volleyball game,” Clancy said. “We’ve also been going to games as a Bull Pit, although we haven’t really organized yet. [Former Bull Pit leader] Austin Jacobs has been a huge help with that. I talked to him a couple times over summer, getting ready for this and talking about how to do certain things.”
Whether Clancy’s new role in Associated Students’ newest office can continue to arouse student support for Torero athletics remains to be seen. Cramming a calendar with commitments is impressive, but only when results follow. Only if the campus community begins to consistently fill the sporting venues of Alcalá Park will the initiative and the individual be considered worthwhile.
Given her success in other endeavors though, it certainly appears that MK Clancy is up to the challenge.