Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WILL RUGBY BE CUT?

Saw all the boys (and more girls this week) at the tailgate before the Buffs game. After Keenan Allen, the main topic was Jack Clark’s fear that “Rugby is on the table” to be cut in this brouhaha over Cal Sports and the budget.

No one believed it will happen. I think everyone thought I was panicking and exaggerating. “Typical Warren and his BS,” was the general feeling I got. Nine times out of ten they’d be right.

But today’s Chronicle article lays it out:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/14/SPCB1FDPNN.DTL

Everything’s on the table except Football, Basketball and Women’s Volleyball (requirements for Pac 10 participation). Five to seven sports are apt to be cut (and due to title IX it’s unlikely many will be women’s sports).

Jack had come up for some Cab—er ice tea—last week (You’ve all been invited and brilliant man that he is, Jack couldn’t pass up a good vintage—especially at the price).

Truth is: He scared me. As politely and even handedly (and without rancor) he reiterated that Cal has not come out publicly to say that Rugby will be back at Witter field as soon as the Stadium construction is complete (You all know that Witter field is torn up, partially paved over and being used for offices locker rooms, and as a construction yard. There is also a synthetic turf practice field for Football—unsuitable of course for Rugby, where kids where shorts and no pads).

While football and construction needs have taken over Witter Field, Rugby has been forced to search for High School Fields around the Bay to hold their games and practices over the next few years. Jack (and by extension, Rugby) have been good soldiers and taken this major disruption to the program stoically.

It’s what we’d expect from Ruggers. Especially Jack’s kids.

According to Jack, he met with Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour, in the hopes of getting (what we think is obvious) reassurance that Rugby is not on the block. She was unable to give it—not even a “wink, wink.” According to him, “Everything’s on the table,” she told him. And the decision is coming in the next couple of weeks.

Now by almost every measure Sandy has surpassed all expectations as an AD. And she’s under terrific pressure from Birgeneau to cut that 10 to 13 million dollar deficit down to around 5 mill. Every program will be affected to some degree.

(BTW 10 mill is a “fake figure” because the Athletic department “pays” Cal for every scholarship—in state or out. So we (from gate receipts and TV revenue) give the U $10,000,000 in scholarship money—at retail, $32,000 for out of state kids—but that’s another column).

Relegating Rugby to a club sport is simply unacceptable to some of us.

As the Chancellor’s committee on Intercollegiate Athletics wrote,

“….... the Council agrees that a robust (Intercollegiate Athletic) IA program is compatible with the values of an elite American research university, that it adds a valuable dimension to students' academic and social experiences, and that its part of Berkeley’s specific traditions and histories is worth preserving….It serves as a unique and irreplaceable point of contact with the University's alumni and friends and facilitates cultivation for philanthropic purposes. It thereby promotes loyalty and school spirit on the part of selected donors. (We note that roughly half of the 53 largest individual donors to the campus support IA as a part of their gifts, and that many donors to IA are even more generous in their gifts to academics.)…..is certain that IA directly assists academic fund raising."

As the Chron reported: “Historically, the most successful sports at Cal have been men's rugby, men's crew and men's water polo…”

Well, it turns out Rugby is more than just successful. We are the 4th highest revenue sport (Behind football, Basketball, and Volleyball), and with the current world wide rise in Rugby (in the 2012 Olympics, the Sevens televised nationally, and the World games), TV revenue and overall advertising revenues in Rugby are sure to rise.

We contribute over $100,000 in signage alone, and many of our sponsors have been converted to overall Cal sponsorship.

We are self funded. The endowment, over $5.5 million before the meltdown--and at around $4.5 million today--contributes $250,000 to our $550,000 annual budget. Between signage and the endowment, only around $150,000 comes from the Chancellor’s discretionary fund.

I just received an e-mail that (I won’t mention names until it’s official, but you can guess what family) has agreed to give another $150,000 to Friends of Cal Rugby to cover the difference that the University has to pick up.

It’s redundant for me to mention the degree of excellence that Rugby has brought to Cal. No sport in the entire university does more to develop character, graduate its kids, live up to the ideals of student/athlete competition, and promote the virtues of a World Class Institution of learning than Rugby. It defines "Clean." Only crew comes remotely close—and not co-incidentally, it too is self funded to a great degree.

Sandy’s job is tough. But we should all be aware that if Rugby is cut back to a club, it may appear that $550,000 a year is saved, but that is NOT the reality. It is all perceived reality and not at all the real thing. It’s pure politics. And damaging to the University’s Brand.

The Chron also quoted from the Chancellor’s committee’s report, “….the university's top 138 lifetime donors to the athletic department have given $280 million to sports and $370 million to academics.”

Dan Mogulof said Cal's sports teams are "the tie that binds" alumni to the university, noting, "People make their first foray into philanthropy in athletics, and it goes from there. It's an inseparable part of the whole that is Cal.,,,,, we don't want to shoot ourselves in the foot."

Again from the Chron, “the committee noted a likely "philanthropic blowback" of as much as $25 million if select sports are eliminated on campus. On the other hand, the athletic department anticipates revenue growth with a new television contract for 2011, reflecting the addition of Colorado and Utah to an eventual Pac-12 Conference in 2012.

So where do we come in? The question is, “Does Sandy understand how much Rugby means to us and the University?” From one point of view, with luck, she will hear from no one and then feel that cutting Rugby is no big deal—-at least not to the Alumni who contribute to the University.

If she cuts Rugby back to a “Club Sport” will she be “shooting herself (and the University) in the foot?”

Inquiring minds want to know.

So if you are of a mind, perhaps she should hear from you. Will Cal lose friends if Rugby is cut? Will Cal lose donations to athletics and academics if Rugby is cut? Will Cal shoot itself in the foot if Rugby is cut?

We may have only a week to let her and the Chancellor know the answers to these questions. If they hear from no one, who can fault their decisions?

Sandy Barbour: athletic.director@berkeley.edu 1 510 642-5316

Robert Birgeneau: chancellor@berkeley.edu (Not published in Cal directory)

Jack Clark: clarkj@berkeley.edu 1 510 642-6927

You're all invited for some Cab if you get up to the Napa Valley and want to talk about this more. The price is right--and the vintages exceptional.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70

1 comment:

Kitty said...

Join the other 99% of collegiate rugby clubs in the USA and enjoy Campus Recreations as your master!