Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The morning of the UCLA game a plane flew over campus (thanks to 9/11 planes can’t fly over packed stadiums anymore) trailing a banner which read “Save Cal Rugby.”

They had it wrong.

It should have read “Help Rugby Save Cal.”

Yes. It’s Cal we should be concerned about. The Rugby debacle is just a symptom of a deeper malaise.

The tendency is to lash out, but we should remember, that these are not evil people intentionally trying to destroy the (once) “Greatest University in the World.” They have been under intense pressure from Sacramento and a minority of faculty members to “do something.”

We needn’t point fingers nor cast blame. These are good, hardworking people. Under financial stress good people can make bad decisions. It doesn’t make them bad people.

Who among us hasn’t made a short sighted, unsound decision during financial duress? Does using the equity in one’s house as an ATM card, because “This market is different” ring a bell?

Why don’t we just fix it without pointing fingers?

First: What’s the real problem?

My grandfather used to recite a poem that contained these lines:

You don't go down with a hard, short fall; you just sort of shuffle along,
And lighten your load of the moral code, till you can't tell the right from the wrong

That’s what we fear is happening at Cal today. That we are taking a slippery slope towards mediocrity and no one is telling the Golden Bear he has no clothes.

This has been going on for decades. The pursuit of money is clouding our thinking. You can't lose your moral compass in one area and retain it in another.

A former administrator and good friend of mind is telling folks that, as a Former Trustee, it is disloyal and “not constructive” for me to criticize the University we all love.

From my Grandfather’s graduation in 1912 to when my dad played for Doc in the 40’s, till I played for him in the 60’s, to the time my youngest graduated in 2008, we have never NOT supported Cal. If those of us who have proven our loyalty through our pocket books and our devotion are not allowed to speak up and dissent, who is?

Sometimes support comes in the form of pointing out painful truths.

Sometimes that dress does make your butt look big.

It’s part of the code: “Friends don’t let friends wear Speedos.”

And this “Speedo” is truly ugly.

Did you know the huge Rugby Poster in Memorial Stadium was removed before the Cal/UCLA game? Are we going the way of China and the old Soviet Union—erasing pictures from our past and pretending people didn’t exist?

This is much bigger than Rugby. This is about the soul of a (once) great educational institution.

Cal is losing its focus as a land grant university. It is the University of California—nowhere else.

Recently there has been a push to admit more out of state students because they pay higher tuitions. In other words, we’re selling seats in classrooms at the expense of our neighbors’ children. A New Yorker gets chosen over someone from Visalia because he can pay more.

This is not what our University should be about.

At my daughter’s graduation two years ago in the Greek Theater, there wasn’t an American Flag nor a California State Flag anywhere. Need I say more?

You all know the story about my daughter making a “Sock Doll” for her final exam in her Peace and Conflicts class. “Only recyclable materials,” you know—guess that makes it “academic.” This example of dumbing down our University is only one of many. Dozens of other classes like “Peace and Conflict studies” --more Therapy than academic pursuit--are further evidence of our slide into mediocrity.

Money should be saved by cutting ridiculous "classes" like these--not exemplary programs like Rugby.

Failing to recognize Rugby for its pursuit of excellence and rewarding it appropriately is another sign of degrading the values we all used to hold dear.

When Robert Sproul, the Witter brothers and my Grandfather attended Rugby games before the first World War Rugby had been a Varsity sport for more than a quarter of a century. It was the “Biggest Game” on campus.

Under Coach Jack Clark Rugby has won 20 of their 25 National Championships. The kids have high GPA's, graduate, the program is scandal free and embraces diversity. Clearly young men of character, they wear their Big C's proudly, and are the poster child for excellence in any endeavor. They always receive the loudest ovation when introduced at football games. People love what they stand for—what they do for the “Cal Brand.”

By demoting rugby, Cal is punishing excellence in exchange for lucre. That is a bad message to send to children—er students. We should honor excellence wherever we find it!

Had we a physics department which produced Rhodes Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, and Valedictorians, would we demote it, no matter the perceived cost savings?

It is interesting that Coach Clark has presented a plan to the University which says in effect, “Rugby will fund itself, and it will fund Women’s Rugby as well.” All we want is to keep our Varsity Status and be recognized for our pursuit of excellence.

Even more interesting is that, Cal is not embracing this. “It’s complicated,” is the response. How can we say we are devoted to Title IX and gender equity if we are turning down an additional sport for women? We Ruggers are willing to grow women’s opportunities and meeting resistance from Cal. This is another sign of mediocrity.

The new Pac 12 contract should net between $10,000,000 and $12,000,000 per school. Before making any cuts, shouldn’t we see exactly what that figure is? Our ESP licensing program is supposed to eventually endow all sports. Shouldn’t we understand how that’s going before we cut sports? Will cutting sports help raise more money?

Rugby is now an Olympic Sport and we’re the premiere program in the country. Don’t we stand to earn revenue based on that?

What puzzles us the most, is why weren’t we alumni allowed to help? Those administrators involved will tell you’ve they’ve been working on this for 18 months. The question another friend posed is: “Why didn’t you do like a judge does in court and say, ‘this is the way I’m leaning. You’ve got 60 days to change my mind?’”

We were never included in the discussion. The Chancellor’s own committee recommended that the University give benchmarks and time tables to the various sports in an attempt to save the $4,000,000 in question by 2014. Why was that not done?

It’s not too late to do that now.

A great friend of mine--A generous and honored Cal Alumnus won’t even have lunch with me to discuss this issue. The Cal family is being split like no time since the 60’s when our school yell went from “Roll on you Bears.” To Ashes to Ashes/Dust to Dust/We hate to close it down/But we must we must.”

Do we really want to fracture alumni support like that again?

E-mails are pouring in as alumni are “re-assessing” their giving depending upon how this plays out. Some officials think they can play rope-a-dope—that there will be a flurry of resentment which will eventually die down. They’re convinced they can outlast it. Alas, it is more likely that this will only spread like a cancer and affect University giving for decades to come.

To say nothing of the already huge loss of good will.

(Think of the Witter family. Perhaps they don’t give as much today as some of our newer donors, but they were giving back when no one else was. Besides Witter Field and the Rugby endowment, they have dozens of scholarships on campus—and we insult them this way).

It’s another sign of descending into mediocrity.

Another line from “The Lure of the Tropics” goes like this:

I started off to be honest, with everything on the square,
But a man can't fool with the Golden Rule in a crowd that won't play fair.
It's a choice of riding a dirty race, or of being an also ran,
My only hope was to steal and dope the horse of the other man

We haven’t played fair with the university. We handcuffed them. We demanded excellence without providing the financial support necessary to achieve it. We, the people of California, didn’t give them the funds. We Alumni didn’t give them the funds to support the sports we cherish. They erred in not giving us the opportunity (though it was one of the Committee’s recommendations) to help them out of this mess.

Hopefully, We’ve both learned a lesson.

Now all we want is the opportunity to make it right. I’m sure all five sports will step up to the plate (if they don’t, fair enough) but Rugby for one is prepared to fund itself and promote Women’s rugby was well.

I hope you will join us in helping Rugby to Save Cal. It is a righteous cause—one worthy of any golden Bear.

Please e-mail the Chancellor chancellor@berkeley.edu
The Athletic Director athletic.director@berkeley.edu
And Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary frankyeary@berkeley.edu
To let them know our thoughts and how you might help.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70
Rugby ‘66-‘68

P.S. My website is jeffwarren.com

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1 comment:

Old_Blue_64 said...

This is what the left has wrought, the destruction of a once great, but now mediocre university. I'm an alumni, and cry for what once was. Title IX is an obscenity. Women's rugby? What a farce! As a nation, we have lost our minds.