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Sandy Barbour out as Athletic Director

Sandy Barbour is “stepping down” (inside word is that she fought it but then took the dignified way out) as AD. Today I feel similar to the day I heard Tedford was gone, although I’m less convinced that she needed to go.

Sandy bled Blue and Gold. Sandy cared a GREAT deal about the student athletes and she carried herself with dignity and treated everyone else with the same sort of dignity. It was always interesting to see her at events at which she wasn’t in a lead role (like at an away Football game on the field). You could tell that she saw her role as supporting those who were in the trenches doing the real work. She walked the journey with them.

Yet there is no doubt that things have been a bit rough for the athletic program. The graduation rate problem falls squarely on her shoulders. It was her job to push her coaches to make sure they kept on top of their players.

The other big issue is the Memorial Stadium finances. I must admit I think this is a mixed bag. One should never look at the finances for this and forget the most important point: She got it built.

Many before her had tried and failed. She ended up in an epic battle to get it built. When you’re that sort of a battle you do everything in your power to minimize the number of things that could stand in your way. To that end, she needed to make sure the finances didn’t get in the way and came up with a plan that made sure that was the case. The 1st day the bulldozers could move, she needed them ready to go. A stoppage while waiting for funding to come in would have been devastating and allowed the opponents to re-group and find a new way to bring things to a halt.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that it’s a LONG time before the stadium financing ends up becoming a burden on the athletic department or the campus as a whole. While it is fair to call it a ticking time-bomb, there is an unstated benefit to such a bomb: There’s time to defuse it.

Cal has another 20+ years to figure out how to dig itself out of this mess. That’s a long time. All it takes is another Tedford-like run of success and focusing the dollars that come from it towards the debt and the problem could go away. Even if we don’t have another such run, there are still other incremental things that can be done to minimize the damage of when those bonds come due.

Nevertheless, perception is, as they say, reality. And it doesn’t help the program to have someone at the helm who is sitting on a perception problem (the finances) in addition to a few real missteps that will haunt her and her ability to inspire confidence in the donors (and make no mistake, the big donors are BY FAR the most important people to have on board).

So, it’s reasonable to say it was time for Sandy to go.

But that doesn’t make it any harder to swallow that someone who bled Blue and Gold, someone who had great dignity and treated everyone else with that same dignity, has to be cast aside.

Thank you Sandy for your dedication to Cal athletics and God bless you in your future.

Various January thoughts

1st up, after previous denying defensive changes, Dykes cleans house on that side of the ball, demoting Buh to a position coach (not announced but assumed to be linebacker) and firing both the defensive tackle (Randy Sacks) and defensive back (Randy Stewart) coaches.

Frankly, this surprises me. I mean, we all know the kiss of death for a head coach is the AD giving a “vote of confidence” to the head coach, and I guess the same is true for the assistant coaches when the head coach states he’s not making any changes. But something about the way Dykes said it in November and his image as a straight-talker, made me think he was going to ride it out.

But I’ve made it no secret that Buh doesn’t impress me. So I guess I’ll stick with calling this good news. Let’s just see who we get as a replacement.

Next up, the 2014 schedule is out. It validates what we already knew, including the Friday night Oregon game at Levi stadium and the non-conference slate of @Northwestern, Sac State and BYU and that the boycott on Thanksgiving weekend games in Berkeley is over with BYU coming to town that Saturday. The new news is that the bye weeks are set (9/13 and 11/8) and we’re playing at USC on a Thursday night (11/13).

Anybody else feel that we’re getting more than our fair share of non-Saturday games?

Depending on how good the team will be next year, this schedule is really bad or somewhat good. If you think the team will stink, it’s good, we get the worst teams at home (Colorado, Sac State). If you think we’re going to be struggling with mediocrity, the schedule is troublesome as most of the next tier games (@Arizona, @WSU, @OSU, BYU (at home)) are on the road. If you’re crazy and think this team is going to be good (and thus win those mid-tier games), most of the high-end games (UCLA, UW, Stanford, Oregon (neutral), @USC) are at home. For the non-crazy, perhaps what that means is we have a shot at a signature win for a mediocre team trying to show they’ve got the ability to beat the big boys.

Final thought on the schedule, I wish that first bye was a couple weeks later, but overall they’re not bad.

And final topic, the defections… Kline is no surprise and overall I think won’t hurt the program much. Tagaloa hurts a bit more. That guy has talent although under-achieved. But overall 3 guys defecting after a big change to the program is not that surprising. Overall it’s not too concerning. More concerning is the lack of progress on getting 4 star plus recruits and that we’re still 8 or so recruits away from the numbers we need in a month.

Big Game time set for Noon

I normally don’t post this sort of thing, but seeing as how it’s not up on any other site yet, I figured I would…

Big Game to kickoff at Noon, to be telecast on Fox

Anyone hoping that the Bears magic was related to playing night games, need to change their reason for hope if they hope for the Ax to return to Berkeley this year.

Cal cuts 5 sports

Breaking news: Cal has cut 5 sports. Here’s the list:

  1. Baseball
  2. Rugby
  3. Men’s gymnastics
  4. Women’s gymnastics
  5. Women’s lacrosse

The one sport that is a little misleading is Rugby. It will be given “special” status as a “varsity club” sport. They will still have access to most of the facilities reserved for varsity athletes and they’ll still have admission spots reserved for them (non-scholarship). It’s unclear if their coaching staff will have to find a different way to generate their salaries and how they’ll be paying for their travel budget. I do know Rugby already had a pretty sizable income/donation base that covered most of their expenses, so chances are they’ve already figured out how to deal with those revenue issues.

I suspect the reality is that the only reason Rugby got demoted was Title IX reasons. I have plenty I could say on that subject, but considering Rugby took the lightest blow of the 5, now is not the time.

But the rest of the programs… they’re gone. Done. No more. A school with a proud tradition of across the board athletics, has taken a significant step back to just be one of the crowd. It went from the 2nd most sports in the Pac-10 behind Stanford and the 2nd most nation-wide amongst public schools with 27, to just one of the pack with 22.

What a blow to the University.

Riley is starting QB for Michigan State

WOW! This really surprises me. Last night Tedford named Riley the starting QB, at least for the Michigan State game. He then reiterated what he had said earlier that both QBs will get playing time.

What’s surprising to me is not the timing of the announcement. Everyone expected an announcement late this week or over the weekend. What is surprising is that Riley got the nod. It is true that Riley has gotten stronger as camp has progressed. But it’s also true that Longshore has looked pretty sharp and in my opinion has had better command of the huddle and the team. Since that’s a quality Tedford cares a lot about, I figured it was going to be Longshore.

But clearly what has made the difference is that with Riley throwing as well as Longshore, his mobility became the difference.

What will be interesting to see is how much Teford (and Cigneti, let’s not forget that he’s a pretty big factor in offensive decisions) is willing to stick with Riley in his rough patches, particularly if those rough patches come early. Tedford has a history of sticking with his guy, as we all know. But Tedford also has a history of picking experience over talent.

It may be a whole new day in Cal Football.

Graduation rates and football

Down in the USC loss good for Cal post a new commentor asks about the LA Times article about Stanford’s excellence in academics for their football players that has been generating a lot of discussion lately.

I’ve got a bigger point to make but first the important qualifier about Cal: The 52% number is not reflective of what Tedford is doing today and has nothing to do with the recruits that Tedford brought in. Basically, the graduation rate measures the percentage of a 5 year window of recruits that should have graduated by now. This year’s number grades whether those who were recruited in the 1997-2001 years have a degree at this point. In other words, every recruit from that time period that dropped out of school before Tedford took over in 2002 is counted against this year’s number despite the fact that the current staff has never known them and they may not have been involved with the program for a full decade. Metrics that measure the current status show Tedford’s staff is doing an excellent job both recruiting smart, high academic achieving kids (GPA of this year’s recruits was around 3.50) and ensuring that these kids are graduating. In fact he’s doing so well that there’s reason to believe that Cal will have a better number than Stanford when the official numbers finally get around to measuring the current batch of players in a decade or so.

I have a lot more details about that if people are interested but that’s not what I wanted to comment on so I’ll leave it at that.

My point is why should we care about the graduation rate in the first place? Before everyone gasps, let me explain. I’m a huge pronent of the NCAA’s century old position that college sports are about college students who happen to play sports instead of sports players who happen to go to college. I think that’s exactly how it should be. However, despite my understanding that there has to be some quantitative metric to determine whether schools are following through on the NCAA’s mission, I’m completely unconvinced that graduation rate is the right metric.

When I went to college as a regular (albeit nerdy) student, did the University or the Engineering department care if I couldn’t cut it at school and had to drop out? Not really. In fact, many schools pride themselves in their relatively high drop out rate because it is a “badge of honor” for those who graduated that they accomplished something special. Something most other people couldn’t. Something that even a majority of those who were admitted to the University, much less the general population, couldn’t accomplish. So on principle alone, why is it a bad thing if football players are similarly as unsuccessful at graduating from the University as their general population peers?

Going back to the University lauded in the article, Stanford, their graduation rate for their football team was 93%. That’s pretty good by any measure. But it loses some of its meaning without a comparison to the general student body. I tried to find numbers for that for a similar time frame at Stanford and had very little luck finding something about the general student population amongst the sea of athletic links and the fact that Stanford as a private University is not required to report these things like Cal a public University does. I did find one number that might prove helpful: Black students at Stanford have a 90% graduation rate in a study concluded in late 2006 (what years the study measured was not mentioned in the article). Seeing as how that same article points to black students doing extremely poorly at other Universities and generally speaking the percentage of black students on a football team is dramatically higher than that of the general student population it seems a safe, albeit long reach, assumption to suggest that Stanford has a very low drop out rate across the board and it has nothing to do with the football program that their number in above 90%.

Looking at Cal’s lowly 52% for their football players (see above caveat), when one finds that general graduation rates are far lower (I found numbers all over the map depending on what they were trying to meaures from the low 40’s to around 75%), all of a sudden the 52% doesn’t seem as horrific as it would otherwise.

The point of all of this is that I think the NCAA needs to find a different way to judge athletic programs and their academics. I think the NCAA should be trying to ensure three things:

  1. Entrance requirements for athletes are acceptably proportionate to the general student body
  2. Student Athlete success rates during their playing years are close to that of the general student body
  3. Graduation rates are similar to that of the general student body

While the NCAA makes no attempt at regulating #1 on this list, and I personally find that to be deplorable, they do at least make an attempt at #2 with their academic eligibility rules that require students be passing a reasonable load of classes each semester (or whatever) to be able to play sports. Nevertheless that’s a very low bar to clear and is not really a measure of the program but instead a restriction on individual player. #3 is the lone area where percentages are actually measured and they are done in such a way that they do not accurately reflect the current status of the program and do not take into account the rigors, or lack thereof, of each University.

I’ve been glad to hear that changes are being made to how the NCAA measures student-athlete academic performance and I want to make sure I give the NCAA full credit for it’s goals and the effort it is making to improve in these areas. That said, I think the current system and even the future system that is in the process of being implemented are using the wrong metrics to measure each University’s performance.