Monday, November 15, 2010

THE SMELL OF VICTORY


Did you hear Ronnie Lot on the Radio last week? Talking about the Giants he went on and on about the aroma—the smell of victory. It permeates everything, he said. It is infectious. He talked about Super Bowl in ’81 and said afterwards he got to meet Duke Snider and Whitey Ford. He met Reggie. He found himself sought out by champions. He said the Giants’ Championship would impact positively on the 49ers and the Warriors.

He’s been there. I take him at his word.

And if he’s right, then the opposite must be true.

I was thinking of that as the Bears barely edged WSU last week and got dominated by SC and OSU. (Kudos, however, for the kids pulling it together on Sat. against Ducks).

Cal’s decision to cut Baseball and demote Rugby has repercussions beyond the actual sports cut. It affects all athletes on campus and all coaches. It says a lot about us as an institution.

Good management starts at the top. That’s where the tone is set—whether we’re talking about British Petroleum or the Raiders. Management decisions send messages to all concerned.

When a management team elects to punish excellence (in the name of Rugby) instead of rewarding it, it sends a signal to all coaches and athletes in the program that it’s ok to be mediocre. It advertises to the world that we are about something else besides excellence.

And as Ronnie Lott said, it’s infectious. Excellence breeds excellence—mediocrity, mediocrity.

Coaches and kids need to know that their hard work and sacrifices will be rewarded—not ignored, punished, or downgraded.

This, by the way, is a university wide problem—not just the Athletic Department’s.

It’s why we should ALL help Rugby to Save Cal.

You’ve read about the sock dolls my daughter made for her final in professor Americ Azevedo’s “Peace and Conflicts Studies” class, and the Chron reported on the class dedicated to the TV series “Mad Men.”

I didn’t tell you about my daughter’s “Diversity” Class. Cindy calls it the Noah’s Ark Class, because it was limited to “two of each.” Two Asians, Two Blacks, Two Latinos, Two Homosexuals, etc. My kid was one of the “Honkey bitches.”

She would attend class regularly to be berated and screamed at for “White privilege.” In class each pair would take turns at the black board (grease easel?) while others shouted out stereotypes to them. They’d be required write them on the wall: “Chink, Nigger, White Bitch, Slant eyes, has rhythm, lazy, shiftless, privileged, can’t dance, greaser, Spic”--you get the idea.

My favorite “mid-term” was when they had to either go to a gay bar and get picked up: Come “out” to their parents: or walk across campus holding hands with a member of the same sex.

This professor is getting paid six figures to promote such rigorous academic standards while Rugby is being penalized for promoting excellence . Don’t say they’re not connected.

For years, we’ve been dumbing down the school across the board.

When someone thinks the answer to a budget crisis is simply to take sports away from children, it lacks subtlety. It is not nuanced enough. It shows a lack of imagination and creativity. It’s unprofessional. Besides, as you’ve seen, there are plenty of (therapy) classes (and a plethora of redundant administrators) we could eliminate if we wanted to trim our budgets.

I’m surprised the faculty hasn’t interceded here to tell the Chancellor this is not what they meant at all. (I’ve received e-mails from faculty members who are appalled by the Chancellor’s direction). What the faculty wanted was to reign in the run-away expenses, contracts, travel, equipment, and general “arms race” prevalent in all college athletics.

I don’t think the Chancellor or Sandy are bad people or incompetent. I think they made a mistake when acting under extreme financial pressure. Understandably, they erred in the heat of battle.

They don’t understand certain subtleties which define this school.

(It's one of the reasons the Chancellor doesn't understand the opposition to his proposal to sell seats to out of state students while denying them to off spring of in-state residents).

See, they don’t know what it is like to take Bonehead English, or about reading Chaucer in that first English 1A class where every other kid in the room is smarter than you are.

They’ve never sat in a Physics 10 lecture hall with 500 kids, scared to death that you are apt to be one of the 40% of the Freshman that will flunk out that year.

They haven’t been overwhelmed by the sexual laxness and abundance of chemical substances which were never a part of the small towns so many of us grew up in.

Navigating the mine fields of Sproul Plaza and bringing half formed ideas back to Thanksgiving dinners is a uniquely Cal thing. Sure all kids who go away to College get exposed to new ideas, but it’s not the same anywhere as it is at Cal.

Cal is so big, so scary, so daunting that those of us that survived it feel a special kinship. We know we belong to a tribe—a tribe that is like no other—-no other in the land. Outsiders can never understand our culture--what makes us so different.

There are tougher schools in the World. There may be prettier campii. But no other University combines the academic rigors, the Darwinian Survival credo, the competitive ethos, the opportunity to experiment with untested lifestyles, the ability to discover one’s own voice, the diversity of thought, country of origin, economic background and skin color that Cal does. NOBODY.

Like New York, “If you can make it there….” (And yes, we each know the tragic stories of those who couldn’t make it and died too young).

That’s why we are different. And that’s why the Administration erred. They couldn’t compute the psychic math.

The last Chancellor who was a Physicist, Glenn Seaborg, literally created the PFC (Pacific Coast Conference). He truly knew the value of athletics to a campus. My Grandfather sat with him at the '59 Rose Bowl. (Under him, we won the NCAA tourney as well). A Nobel Prize Winner, Chancellor Seaborg understood the importance of pursuit of excellence in all fields of endeavor.

The solution to inter-collegiate athletics needs to be a comprehensive one. It lies in generating more revenues via licensing, stadium naming rights, contracts with apparel companies, TV dollars, ticket revenues, and general advertising, marketing and promotion.

It requires trimming fat in the athletic department (we hear 5 million, easily), and trimming fat all across the board in each sport.

It means reviewing travel costs, scheduling, scholarships and squad sizes. It means factoring in the new Pac 12 contract (they say they have, but that “expenses will be rising too.” What kind of a statement is that?)

(Remember: with a 70 million dollar budget a 5% across the board cut means $3,500,000, just about they’re saving by demoting Rugby and cutting the others.

Both Tedford and Montgomery are stand up guys. I’m still surprised that they haven’t gone to Sandy and said, “This is wrong. We’ll each cut back 5% so you can make your numbers.” It must be tearing their guts out that they’ve been unable to do this—or maybe they have and we don’t know.

I just can't see Nibbs Price, Brutus Hamilton, Pete Newell, Pappy Waldorf or Andy Smith standing by doing nothing while other coaches' sports were cut.

In short, t’s about increasing revenues and cutting costs—-not cutting children’s sports.


The oddest thing is, why aren't they talking to us?

They were willing to spend two years (and spend $2,000,000) talking to Dumpster Muffin, Zacery Running Wolf, Burlap and the Tree Sitters. We can't even get an e-mail back--unless it's a "bot."

Oh, there have been some meetings and lots of back channel stuff. But not once has the Chancellor or AD come out and said, "It's my priority to work with Alumni to solve this debacle and make sure we don't cut any sports."

As a kid, our coach Mr. Carpy used to bench us if we showed up to a game without our baseball cap, belt, or our shoes unshined. “A fella who cares enough to look like a ball player might just be a ball player,” he told us.

A University which embraces excellence is on the way to being excellent. A university which honors winners, just might become a winner—across the board.

Alas, the opposite is equally true—as we’re all seeing.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70

UPDATES: Baseball seems to think that they are getting a number from the Chancellor which if it can be met, will bring it back. Whether that number is reasonable or not remains to be seen.

Rugby has a plan to be self-funded and include Women’s Rugby (which Sandy is resisting). But the issue Varsity Status has not been resolved.
(I’m told) Rugby will NOT be a member of the B C society if it is demoted to “Varsity Club.”

I think the Big C Society erred in sending out their ‘UC Berekely Intercollegiate Athletics FAQ” without thoroughly identifying it’s source. It looks like it is coming from Big C. It contains many errors and is the administration’s take—not fact based. Example: Rugby was NEVER a club sport. Big C should not be telling people that Rugby was a “Club” sport when it never was.

A member of the Athletic Department verified that Cal has, if not the smallest, one of the smallest contracts with Niki in the Conference.

ESP licenses are being impacted. It's affecting finances. One $200,000 check has already been returned. This debacle needs to be resolved soon.

There is a lot of back channel activity going on. We’ll know more soon. This IS NOT
over.

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