Oct. 12, 2007
BERKELEY, Calif. - This story originally appeared in the Fall 2007 Issue of Cal Sports Quarterly.
By Anna Oleson-Wheeler, Cal Media Relations
Not only does senior Michael Sharf stand out as a pivotal member of Cal's national champion men's water polo team, he'll also be making waves in the business world after graduating with a bachelor's degree in the spring from the Haas School of Business.
When Sharf was deciding between colleges, Cal's academics caught the Orinda, Calif., native's eye. And it was the Haas School of Business, which is ranked third in the nation for undergraduate business programs, that was particularly attractive.
"The business administration major was one of the main reasons I chose to come to Cal," Sharf said. "The program has a great reputation." While the perennially powerful Golden Bear water polo team faces off against the top-ranked teams in the country, a different breed of contenders - his fellow business hopefuls - awaited Sharf in the classroom before he could be admitted to Haas. Interest in the business administration program is growing rapidly, and Haas only accepts approximately half of Cal students that apply.
"It was a real challenge getting into the Haas School of Business because I was competing with people who have that goal as their top priority," Sharf said. "While it was very important to me too, I still had to train hard for and focus on water polo. I realized after a while that academic success as an athlete is possible - it just takes a little less sleep and a lot more coffee."
Even though Sharf had taken a major step towards the boardroom with acceptance into Haas last year, he knew that hard work lay ahead both in and out of the pool. The 2006 men's water polo team had an exceptional season, winning 26 of 30 matches during the regular season before claiming the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament title. The Bears then defeated USC with a last-second goal to win the NCAA championships, Cal's 12th in program history.
"Last fall semester was really difficult because there was a lot of pressure on our team to win, so it was a full-time job to play water polo," Sharf said. "When you try and balance that with academics, it's very stressful."
In addition to his athletic accolades - honorable mention All-America and second on the '06 squad with 48 goals - Sharf gave back to the academic community, as well, as a tutor in the Athletic Study Center. He even declined an opportunity to play with the U.S. National team in order to participate in a Haas summer school program and to prepare for his senior water polo season.
With his 3.54 GPA, membership on the MPSF All-Academic team and a 2005 Cal Scholar-Athlete Award, Sharf is an exemplary model of a Golden Bear student-athlete.
"The Cal academic community has been really amazing because it fosters a desire to learn and fuses that desire with a competitive environment," said Sharf, who plans to pursue a career in corporate finance. "As an athlete, I am already very competitive and I feel that I was able to transfer that attitude to the classroom here at Cal."