On a semi-regular basis, the Bear Blog will check in with Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour to get her perspective on everything Cal athletics. With a new football coach, the first season in the new California Memorial Stadium in the books and a high-profile Signing Day, we thought this would be a perfect time to solicit the thoughts from the leader of Cal's Intercollegiate Athletics department.Bear Blog
: Can you give us an overview of Cal Intercollegiate Athletics as we head toward a new year?Sandy Barbour:
We are at a really exciting juncture in our history with
California Memorial Stadium having been renovated and the long-discussed
upgrade of our facilities with the Simpson Center coming online. Those are huge
advances for us and huge advances in our ability to provide a high-quality
experience for our student-athletes, which is ultimately the goal. Within those
projects, it gives us several multi-faceted opportunities to connect with our
community, whether it be through our football gameday experience or through
those facilities providing opportunities for our campus and our broader
community to hold an event in Memorial Stadium.
The stadium project has been something that has weighed
heavily during the entire duration of my eight years here. It was such a
massive project, both from a financial standpoint but also the actual
construction of the project itself and all of the approvals and all of the discussion
here on campus. Getting that done took a Herculean effort by every member of
this department and frankly every member of this campus. It also took up a huge
part of our time. Getting that done really gives us an opportunity to move on
to smaller yet still very important, but much more manageable projects and
initiatives to continue to move us forward -- whether they be smaller capital
projects for different sports which we certainly still have needs there, and certainly
all kinds of other resource acquisitions or resource allotment throughout our
29 programs and throughout the department.
Are we financially challenged? Absolutely. I don't know
there will ever be a time at the University of California, Berkeley that we'll
feel like unequivocally we have everything we need from a resource standpoint.
That's OK. One of the things I love about us is that we're resourceful, we're
creative, we're clever - we're just like our student-athletes. We don't
necessarily need all of the things that everybody else has because frankly we have
some things nobody else has. We have the greatness of this campus. I know our
coaches and certainly we administrators feel so fortunate that when we recruit,
we have the reputation of this university to draw prospective student-athletes or
prospective staff or coaches. Nobody else has that. We need to use that as our
point of difference, and we do. Whether it's fundraising or recruiting or sales
and service, we absolutely use that to our advantage.
I'm very proud of
this department for the way in which we use our resources very effectively,
very efficiently. We always need to be very diligent about that. We can't take our
eye off that ball. But we're at a point where we are as competitive as we've
ever been, we have an opportunity to vastly improve our financial situation through
investing in revenue generating units, whether they be development or sales and
service or just looking at different ways that we can produce revenue. That's
no different than any other athletic department across the country.
We will certainly miss (outgoing chancellor) Bob Birgeneau -
he's been a true champion for Intercollegiate Athletics. He's somebody that
understands the value that high-quality, highly successful Intercollegiate Athletics
programs can bring to a campus and he's promoted that every step of the way. I
also believe in and trust the university and the process and everything that I've
heard about (incoming chancellor) Nicholas Dirks is that he will be that and
more, that he too will understand and embrace the value that we can bring and
the role that we can serve in the greater excellence of the campus.
Because we're a great university, because we hire great
people, we have the opportunity to go out and recruit the very best and the
brightest young men and women to populate our 29 programs. I get great
satisfaction and great joy out of watching them compete and practice and train
and struggle and everything else, and watching them excel and then watching
them graduate and then watching them come back five years later and talk about
what they are doing.
It's a great labor of love. We have our challenges. We have
things we have to improve and get right, but there are also a lot of things we
do very, very well that we need to make sure that we continue to do well. I
think great success is ahead of us.
I'm excited about Sonny Dykes' leadership in our football program.
We have the best coaching staff in America across the board. You look at the
number of National Coach of the Year honors that we've won, you look at what
our teams are doing under these coaches' leadership -- every day, we want to
make sure that we make our campus and our alums proud. I think we're doing that
in a big way.
BB: What are your reflections on the football coaching search?
SB: High-profile coaching searches nowadays are very
interesting. This is not your father's coaching search. You really have to be
very diligent and hold it close to the vest because frankly if you are going
after a certain level of coach that has had success as a head coach, they may
not want their name out there. Frankly, there are two, if not three, coaches in
our search that I'm not sure I ever saw their name. I just believe that's how
it's done. That takes a lot of care and a lot of diligence and a lot of focus.
The most fantastic thing about this search was the high level of interest from
across the country from some names of people that were interested and really
would turn some heads.
The first order of business is to establish a particular
football competence, relative to the x's and o's and relative to the management
of the football operation. You can do that pretty quickly. Then it's a matter
We ended up in New York at the National Football Foundation
Hall of Fame Induction. We met with a bunch of candidates. There was a high,
high level of interest in Cal and high level of interest in our
student-athletes and the talent that is in this program and the success that we
did have under Jeff Tedford's leadership. I will tell you there were multiple
number of guys that I met face to face that I would have been happy to have
lead our program, but Sonny was head and shoulders the best of that group. I
knew it the first time I met with him. We established his football competence.
I really, really like his values, like the way he talks about what he is about
and what his job is as a head football coach. I love the way he talks about
student-athletes and what his obligation is to them. I love the way he talks
about his staff and how to put them together. I think he's a great fit. He
showed extreme enthusiasm for the Pac-12 and for Berkeley and living in this area
and how it was a great fit for his family.
BB: Is fit even more important at a unique place like Cal?
SB: I think fit is very
important, no matter where you are. But I think fit becomes even more important
at a place like Cal because we are so unique. Frankly, fit is really about
values. Like all of us, he and his new staff are going to struggle a little bit
with how to get things done around here. Unless you've spent some time here,
and sometimes even when you have spent some time here, you don't' necessarily
have it figured out how to get things done. But the fit is about values. You
have to learn the mechanics of how to get things done, but there's a certain values
perspective that it all starts with.
BB: From a game day and operations standpoint, how did the first season in the new California Memorial Stadium go?
SB: There are few things in life that truly exceed expectations.
Both the Simpson Center and California Memorial Stadium and the two separate projects
together and the environment that they have created on that part of campus, I think
is a true asset to the campus, it's a true jewel that we will use as the
cornerstone of our Intercollegiate Athletics program. It speaks to all of the
things that we talk about in terms of athletics being valuable and powerful on
our campus. It is a safe, comfortable, inviting place for our alumni, our fans,
our students, our parents, our faculty, our staff to gather as a 60-plus
thousand-person community on a given Saturday afternoon.
The UCLA game, the first-ever game under permanent lights ,
was electric. It was the University of California, Berkeley community gathering
and celebrating all that we are and the stadium and the way it's configured
allowed us to do that.
Probably the greatest thing that has made me feel really
good about the project - and there have been a number of them - but the one
that I would have to single out is a number of our football alumni made comments
that they were afraid that by modernizing the stadium that we wouldn't maintain
that Memorial Stadium, but it's here. That was very conscious. That feels good.
We were able to combine the old and the new, to maintain tradition and pay
homage to our history which is so important to us. At the same time, we can
create today's history.
We have work to do. The East side is not done. We took a
30-month project and jammed it into 21 months. It is a miracle that we played a
football game on Sept. 1. It's a great tribute to Webcor and our capital
projects folks and the architects and construction management and all the
trades and the subs -- you name it, just phenomenal work. But the fact is we
had thousands and thousands of square footage turned over to us three days
before the first event. The construction was done. The building was there. We
just had no time to learn how to operate it. We spent an entire season learning
and we will continue to. Having said that, our staff did an absolutely
phenomenal job in presenting Memorial Stadium to our fans. It's a beautiful
jewel that we need to take care of, one that will be a launching pad for a lot
of things that Intercollegiate Athletics at Cal will do that will help us
advance from a revenue production standpoint, that will help us advance from a
brand standpoint, will help us advance from a student-athlete experience
standpoint. All of that will help put us in good stead to help us accomplish
all of our priorities.
BB: Were there times during the season when you reflected on the journey it took to finally get this project done?
SB: When they turned the stadium over to us on that Wednesday
before the first game, I actually went down on the field and just stood in the
Cal script and looked up and looked around, particularly at the press box and
the premium seating area - that's oh so very different than what we had. You
think about all the student-athletes that came before and played through and
endured less-than-desirable circumstances. You think about all the fans, all
the alumni, all the committed season-ticket holders that sat through a lot of games
on splintering-wooden benches.
BB: What were your thoughts on a pretty high-profile Signing Day at Cal last month?
SB: This is the advantage of having such an incredible
university to recruit to and having coaches that have the reputations that they
do. In terms of signings, Missy Franklin is clearly the one that has the
biggest name. I'm excited about Missy bringing her talents to Berkeley. I'm
also excited about retroactively adding her medals to our medal count. Missy is
probably the brightest star in a menu of really great recruits across the
board. Missy was the top catch in women's swimming. Ryan Murphy was probably
the No. 1 ranked men's swimmer. I know
everybody is excited about Jabari Bird in men's basketball and Courtney Range
and KC Waters in women's basketball and Rich (Feller) signed another great recruiting
class in volleyball, including Steve Kerr's daughter, Maddy Kerr. This university
and this department continues to attract the very best out there. In an Olympic
year, when you have somebody like Missy Franklin shine for the United States,
to have her make the decision to bring those talents to Cal is very validating
for Teri and our women's swimming program and this department and for the
campus. But I'm looking forward to having all those we signed in November and
will sign in February and will sign in April that will be freshmen and starting
out their careers at Cal, and that's always fun. To see them come in as freshmen,
and four or five years later see them leave with their degrees and maybe a few national
championships and a whole lot of experiences and memories, that's really what we
are all about.