Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MAD MEN

No doubt you all saw the article in the Chron the other day. Cal is offering a class on “Mad Men,” the television series. As a former Creative Director in N.Y. (starting in ’71) I can relate to the show. The only difference is that in our time there was more smoking, drinking and sex.

The article speaks volumes about the situation on Campus today. Cal is willing to demote the Rugby program (the poster child for the pursuit of excellence) but spend money on Classes about TV shows. Shakespeare is so last year. (My daughter, besides taking the class where they made sock dolls for their final—also took a DeCal class in Scrabble. For her midterm, she had to memorize all the two letter words. You can’t make this stuff up).

We are being led down the path to mediocrity. This has been going on for a while. The new Chancellor and AD, did not create this, but they are promoting it. Punishing excellence (in the case of Rugby) is just the most visible, egregious example. A great University bends over backwards to reward excellence—not punish it.

It’s fair to say that the folks tasked with the decision to cut sports were reacting to pressure from the faculty and from Sacramento to have athletics share in the cutbacks which are affecting the University as a whole. I haven’t met a person who disagrees with that.

But where does one cut?

Shouldn't it start with administrative staff? Check out your Blue & Gold year book and count the number of administrators and Deans and compare it to today's.

Check out the Bain Study. $75,000,000 in waste and they haven't even hit the athletic department yet.


The last thing one does is cut the finest (I know water polo and crew might disagree) example of an intercollegiate athletic program in the nation--Rugby.

Cal has now managed to embarrass us across the country. We are a national laughing stock. Cut baseball? The national pastime? Has anyone seen how the Giants re-emergence has affected the entire Bay Area—let alone the country? You don't think that type of stuff happens to a campus?

Granted, Brian Wilson looks like a porno star from an 8 millimeter stag flick in the 60’s (remember how men used to wear beards and women “bug eye glasses” so they couldn’t be identified?). But aren’t his heroics and those of the rest of our knuckleheads capturing the heart of a nation?

Do these people not know what baseball means to the soul of this country? The greatest University in the World will never NOT have a baseball program. It is inconceivable.

Did these folks never have a “catch” with their father? Apparently not. For no man or women who ever tossed a ball with his or her dad would ever cut baseball anytime, anywhere. It dishonors one's heritage--one's father. It’s about poetry. It’s about soul. It’s disrespecting your father who gave you those magical moments of tossing the ball back and forth when no one else would.

This is the problem that occurs when the “White man” comes in and does not understand the culture of the “Indigenous peoples.” We are the Indians. Strangers have invaded our territory and are trampling on our traditions, disrespecting our ancestors, denying us our rituals, disregarding our “laws” and customs, all for financial gain—gain that means nothing to us.

They are selling seats in classrooms to out of State kids (They’ll pay $32,000 to our in-staters $11,000 in tuition), preventing our neighbors’ kids with 4.3 g.p.a.’s from attending the school which our taxes support.

In the midst of this crisis, the Chancellor took off for Asia to raise some more money from non-state residents. This is what we have come to. We (the Indians) don’t count anymore. “They” do—because “They” have the money.

Once, before we left that locker room to run out through the tunnel to play our first football game, Truck Cullom would tell us the legend of Andy Smith. We weren’t going out there to go to the BCS Bowl. We weren’t going out there even to go to the Rose Bowl. We definitely weren’t going out there to get more money for the conference.

We were going out there on a sacred field where Andy Smith’s ashes had been scattered. We were going out there to uphold the ideals of Andy Smith—not to get TV ratings. And what were those ideals which we were entrusted with?

Were they to look, both the Chancellor and the A.D. could read these words from Andy Smith on the back of the Bench, inscribed in stone, in Memorial Stadium:

We don’t want men who will lie down bravely to die
But men who will fight valiantly to live.
Winning is not everything,
And it is far better to Play the game squarely and lose
Than to win at the sacrifice of an ideal

You say this is mawkish. You laugh at me, but this is what football was to us. Yes, we wanted to go to the Rose Bowl—yes, we wanted to be ranked nationally—yes, we wanted to win the Pac 10-- but these were the words that the coaches used to inspire us—not, “If we make the BCS it means $17,000,000 to the Conference—Now go out there and win one for the Wallet!

Cal is embarrassing itself in its pursuit of lucre.

We (as the greatest University in the world) don’t abandon programs like Rugby (or physics for that matter) in order to save money. We find different ways—either by increasing revenue (which we can—big time--through professional marketing), by sharing cuts across the board, or by giving alumni like all of us the chance to help out. This is the most mysterious element of all. Why aren’t the Chancellor and the A.D. welcoming Alumni support?

Why have they built up a wall to keep us from helping?

Why did they not figure in the additional $6,000,000 to $10,000,000 revenue from the new Pac 12 TV package?

Instead of cultivating us, they are saying silly things like, “The decision’s been made and there is no recourse.” This is unbecoming of a “Great Institution.” Why won’t they work with us?

I sat in the press box during Saturday’s ASU game. The entire day was ghastly—the dismal weather was a distant second to the mood of all the people who love Cal and the way we have been treated over the past few weeks. Fortunately, Cal played well, but it couldn’t overcome the lack of attendance and the lack of enthusiasm generated by the murder of sports we all hold dear.

It matters to no one, but I got the major cold shoulder from both the Chancellor and the A.D. (I should have worn my black beard).

Years ago, when I was a trustee (and there were two buildings on campus named after Earl Warren--that is before they tore one down in the middle of the night because someone gave more money than we did) there were a lot of back slaps and” love ya’ Charlie Baby” whenever I was around. Saturday, there was the “Hi. How are ya’. And then turn the eyes away and ignore the idiot Rugby fanatic. Fair enough.

I do not think they are bad people. I think they made a simple mistake—an understandable one giving the economic dynamic of the times.

I am criticizing what I think is a gigantic error. I don’t think they’ve done the math. They believe they have. They believe that some old curmudgeons like me will raise a little hell, hold back a few hundred thousand--but that the new Out of State money will replace our upsettedness (is that a word?).

I think they’re wrong—and I’m offended by their rudeness. My family has been involved with that school since 1908 and to be given the “cold shoulder”—just because we disagree on policy is not copestic.

But I dirgress. Usually, in these screeds, I always mention folks names because we are family and it is fun to see our friends names in print. But I don’t want anyone identified with me and discriminated against, so I’ll keep each person anonymous, but I promise (on Andy Smith’s head) what I say is true:

Here are our problems: How can a school which spent two years and two million dollars letting high school kids named Oak, Burlap, and Zacery Runningwolf--he of the "so-sue-me" tribe sit in trees and halt a construction project because the School didn’t have the cojones to enforce the law—then cut a program which demands and pursues excellence, like Rugby?

(In fact, had we had warning, we could have hired them to camp out on Witter Field and might have saved our Rugby pitch. It's not to late to buy them some dope and have them pitch their tents on Edwards).

We have a $500,000,000 budget. What’s the big deal about spending One percent ($5,000,000) on athletics? Isn’t 2% ($10,000,000) a reasonable number? The chancellor says $5,000,000 is the conference average, but since we must have the largest budget in the Conference, clearly we are spending less per student than others.

Over the past decade, our Endowment returned an average of 3.5% on 6 Billion dollars (total). Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford are averaging 9.5% over the same period. My friend (who shall go unnamed so he’s not shunned) has been working on everyone involved to fix this, but all he gets his happy talk. Neither the Chancellor nor the Trustees have provided an adequate answer. We're leaving 300 million a year on the table. He’s going to the President of the Board of Regents, and then to the Governor.

(I say give it to Yale and let them take 1% just to manage our money and we still come out way ahead (One year they pulled in 13.5%).

The Chancellor says the Major Donors are OK with his decision. The Witters are not major donors? Or is it just the Johnny-come-latelies that count with him? Though the Witter family may not give as much today as some of the new Dot Commers, remember—they gave and gave big—when no one else (save Phebe Hearst) was doing it.

Here’s the rest of the Gossip from the Press Box, though I can’t authenticate a thing.

The following is all GOSSIP.

When asked about baseball my friend (who shall go nameless) said, “We can’t pin them down. They’re waffling.”

One of Cal’s biggest supporters and a die hard football fan and one of the ESP’s biggest proponent’s-- (my friend who shall go nameless) wrote a scathing letter and resigned from the ESP board and will not (until this gets resolved) help sell ESP’s.

(ESP's--Endowment Seat Program--are the seats that are being sold for the Stadium which are to finance the stadium and eventually endow all sports).

My friend (nameless) tells me Cal has floated a bond (this is way above my pay scale) based on the good faith and credit of the Regents.

My friend (nameless) told me that more people are now canceling their ESP’s than are ordering new ones. If this is true (again above my pay scale) I was told this must be disclosed to potential bond holders.

My friend (nameless) told me Baseball was told that if they could raise 1.3 mill, they could come back. My friend says Cal is now waffling on that.

My friend (nameless) has said, “let’s just raise 20 mill and use principle and interest for 10 years to bridge the gap until we see what the new TV contracts and the ESP’s bring us.

My other friend (nameless) is working to implement the Chancellor’s committee’s recommendations of Benchmarks and time frames for each sport to hit. He is finding resistance.

My friend (nameless) says the Athletic Department is leaving many marketing dollars on the table. How come no one has talked to Larry Baer (President of the Giants) or Dick Beahrs (Owner of the San Jose Giants) about how to market baseball at Cal?

My friend (nameless) says his friend (nameless) has pledged $100,000 per year for Women’s Lacrosse.

My friend (nameless) has pledged $1,500,000 from his estate for Rugby.

My friend (a nameless law professor) has offered to mediate between the athletic department and the sports—but was rebuffed by the Chancellor.

The clear answer seems to be to bring back all five sports. Cal is resisting this. Why the wall?

They are also resisting Rugby’s offer to field Women’s Rugby—and to pay for it. This clearly shows that something odd is going on.


Now, clearly I’m just one little country boy who sees only one side of the picture. But with all this enthusiasm and help, why are the Chancellor, Athletic Director and Frank Yeary NOT harnessing this energy to come up with a solution?


An unintended consequence of this is that the Administration has turned alumnus against alumnus. Some think Rugby should just shut up. Some think Women’s gymnastics is a waste. Some are just glad their sport has been saved and can’t worry about the moral imperatives regarding other sports. Some think screeds like these are counter productive—that a healthy debate is not appropriate.

Thanks to the administration’s actions, friends who have always considered themselves part of the Cal family are now taking sides and the Campus Community is becoming more divided than it’s been since the 60’s.

People are cutting back on ESP’s and over time donations will clearly dwindle. There is no reason to go down this path.

Assuming these are all good people, it’s time for the administration to sit down with the alumni and solve these problems in a collaborative fashion. Cold shoulders have their place—mostly at Senior proms where a lover has been rejected), but not at Cal.

Mr. Birgeneau: TAKE DOWN THAT WALL!

Much better to keep "Mad Men" as a TV series than have them around your school, and cutting off funds. Who knows? It could be that Mad Women are angrier than Mad Men.

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

P.S. Anyone watching the Giants tonight still think the (former) "Greatest University in the World" can't field a baseball team? Please................

1 comment:

Fire said...

Great post and thanks for all the info. The University (namely Sandy and Birgy) made a big miscalculation if they thought rugby and baseball would just go quietly...

The Chancellor's July Report formulated by his special committee doesn't really support the cuts made either. In fact, that report suggested (in my view) athletic team cuts as kind of a measure of last resort.

The whole thing stinks to high hell and I think it will get uglier before it gets better. Meanwhile, Sandy is due to make nearly $500k this year for her wonderful "leadership": http://www.sacbee.com/statepay/?name=barbour&agency=UC+BERKELEY&salarylevel=

Talk about rewarding failure...