Friday, November 28, 2014

“THIS ONE REALLY HURTS”



That message was on my iphone.  It came from Morton moments after the Bears went down to ignominious defeat—yet again—at da feet of da Stanford State Indians. 

Yes, it really hurt.  Why?  Was it because we were “jobbed” by the officials?  We were—but that is not why we lost.

Was it because the Indians were better than we were?  They were—but is that the only reason we lost?

Was it because we were out coached?  We weren’t—but is Dykes and the formerly “hurry up offense” the foundation for success going forward?

It wasn’t Dykes fault.  But is he the future?

Was it because the stadium was not packed?  And the air seems to have gone out of the Big Game balloon with only a reported 6,000 Stanford Alumni attending?

We can remember when the Stadium was half red and half blue.

It wasn’t any one thing—yet it was so many things.

How often have you heard the words, “I just want to live long enough to see the Bears go to the Rose Bowl?”  Forget Naples.  We want to “See the Bears in Pasadena,” then die.  Alas, it looks like we are now closer to the latter than to the former.

Joe Kapp famously gave up downing Tequila until the Bears go to the Rose Bowl.  If this keeps up, he’ll be forced to give up Metamusal.  Most of us can’t even remember what Tequila is used for.

The dead giveaway was when I looked up at the entrance to Memorial Stadium and saw the inscription,  Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate." 

It has become apparent for some time we don’t need Dante to warn us “Abandon Hope all ye’ who enter here.”

Rooting for the Bears has become nothing if not a “Divine Comedy.”

Of course, Dante erred in coming up one circle short.  He toured only 9 circles of Hell—Virgil being kind enough to spare him from the 10th, most tortuous circle—that of the never dying “wait’ll-next-year Cal alumnus.”  In circle 8 the fraudulent were buried head first with their flaming feet facing upwards.   Circle 10 is reserved for Cal Alumni—who’s eyes fail to see and accept reality and whose heads are perpetually stuck up their backsides for all eternity.

Will we never learn? 

No, it hurt so badly because it all seems so hopeless.  Allah knows we’ve got lots of experience licking our wounds after many a Big Game. 
                                                                                              
Win or lose, the Big Game has retained a certain majesty—an inexplicable aura of magic.  It could have been Paul Larson coming back from 3 TD’s down to tie the Indians in my first Big Game in ’53.  The 14 point underdog Bears upsetting the Indians in Pappy’s final game in ’56. Patton and Hart stopping Skip Face at the goal line to send us to the Rose Bowl in ’59.  Rose Bowl bound 10.5 point favorite Indians, featuring Heisman winner, Jim Plunket being upset 22-14 in 1970.  Ferragamo to Sweeny on the last pass of the last game of the last season to defeat the Indians in ’72. 

Should I go on?

You want to hear about 15 point underdog Bears beating Elway 28-23 in 1980?  Or in ’86 when the 21 point underdog Bears (after 8 straight losses) upset the Indians 17-11 in Joe Kapp’s final game as head coach?

And I think there was a game in 1982 when the bears were down with 4 seconds to go and John Elway’s Indians were kicking off—but it’s so long ago, I can’t remember what happened on that “play.”

It’s not all ancient history.  In 2009 the Indians were 9-1 ranked #6.  A last second interception by Michael Mohamed of an Andrew Luck pass saved the game for the Bears.

And ever since it’s been “Meh.”  Last year’s 63 to 13 summed it up better than Dante ever could.

Big Game had always had the aura of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause.  Probably there’s a rational reason why things happen (really dad or mom snuck money under the pillow or presents under the tree), but who wants to look to closely and perhaps destroy the mystery?

It’s not that any one meant to do any harm, but they began pulling off Santa’s beard when they began changing the kick off times for Big Game.  Then they added a game after the Big Game so it was no longer the dénouement.  Then it became the fourth week of the season—played in October, no less.  Then brilliant minds thought it should be moved to Levi Stadium.

Each one of these events helped destroy the magic.  I can assure you that none of the geniuses behind these moves ever read a Joseph Campbell book on mythology, or believed in the tooth fairy after his 6th birthday.  (Somehow I see Larry Scott at age 7,  “proving” to his brothers and sisters that the Santa in Macy’s was really a Bowery St. Bum working a part time gig—but I digress).

Money talks—magic walks.  The Indians’ coach, David Shaw (whom I admire in so many ways) can’t even be bothered to do the Guardsmen’s lunch, a decades’ old tradition that raises money for disadvantaged kids.  He’s too busy preparing for the game.

Tedford groused and grumbled all the way to the Bohemian Club for the traditional Big game dinner and gala—allegedly sitting in his car with a yellow pad, ordering his go-fer to wait until the very last minute before releasing him from the limo.  (He also ended the tradition of the assistant coaches coming to the dinner).

Take the team to the Big Game Rally the night before?  Maybe for a cameo, then off to meetings—if that.
Twice we were headed in the right direction.  In the early 90’s Snyder had the program where it ought to be then a mental midget and crass guy let him go.

Then in Tedford’s early years (hired by Gladstone) he had us on the road to excellence both academically and athletically.  Then (and I have no idea why) from L’affair Lepois on, the program tanked both academically and athletically. 

Here’s an odd bit of trivia.  If you look up Cal’s 10 greatest Big Game wins there’s an argument to made that they would include, ’56, 58, 82, and ’86.  What did those games have in common?  The guy my father used to call “Joe, Joe—The Kapp, Kapp.”

Coincidence?  Perhaps. 

Or maybe whether Joe was a textbook qb, or a good coach or a bad coach—lots of folks have opinions on that--he had a certain je ne se qua—something intangible that allowed him to be present when magic happens.   Or maybe he was the source of that magic?

Some people are like that.  Some people are winners.  Some people are always around the ball.  Some people are always at the plate when the game is on the line.  There is neither rhyme nor reason.  It’s in the hands of the Gods.

Like Big Game used to be.

We’ve taken it from the hands of the Gods and put it in the hands of the technocrats and bureaucrats.   But that’s another column.

Kapp and Morton (who, oddly, never beat the Indians) are Cal royalty.  Childhood idols, they’ve become long time friends to me and to all friends of Cal.  What they share with all those who have put on a hat and run out of that tunnel and on to the field is an amazing sense of Pride—pride of being a Bear.  Pride of having attended (and survived) Cal—the most difficult (and I’m not just talking academics) University in country. 

Any kid who gets through Cal has accomplished something no other College grad in the country can even relate to.  Cal can be cold, unfeeling, unforgiving, forlorn—even cruel.  Yet, it’s great.  Like New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.  It’s what binds us.

That’s why we bleed when we are so obviously out classed by the Indians.  Yes, it hurts—really hurts. 

And at this point we don’t seem to have an answer.

All we have is our pride—and no solution to the conundrum. 

Maybe a new AD with a vision of Cal as the Kapps, the Ed Whites and the Mortons (who was unceremoniously let go by our former AD) see it, will help.   Maybe there is no answer.  Maybe the previous administration caused a tipping point where (after a tall good lookin’ guy reported in May of 2012 that we were 112 out of 123 schools in graduating kids), they let us fall to absolute last in the entire country the next year.  No pride there.  Folks just didn’t care—about the kids, about the program, about the school.

What will it take?  I have no idea.  Maybe we need the Lovin’ Spoonful.  Do you believe in Magic?  Life's Hell if you don't.











Friday, November 21, 2014

"GIVE 'EM THE AXE THE AXE, THE AXE...




....."Give 'em the axe where? Right in the neck, the neck, the neck. Right in the neck. Right in the neck, Who?"

We all know who. The Stanford Indians--that's who! This famous college football yell is not politically correct, today. No doubt it's a bit too violent for today's tender-eared youth.

We know the name Indians is frowned upon by the PC crowd--which makes us want to use it even more—-but that’s another column.

Saturday is the Big Game. And each year a column with this title appears. Like the Game, itself, it's tradition.

Outsiders think we are so arrogant. No one in the country understands how two accademic institutions can refer to their contest as “The Big Game.”

Folks assume that for a game to be “Big” something has to be on the line-- the Conference Championship; the Rose Bowl; or the holiest of holies--The BCS (whatever that means) Championship. (Tecnically the Rose Bowl is on the line, an entire string theory of wins and losses in other games have to take place, so folks are probably kidding themselves).

That the BCS or somesuch thing has to be on the line is to miss the essence of college football. Despite the bad press, scandals and under the table activities we read about, first and foremost, college football is about student-athletes competing against one another.

Sure, there are some thugs. And, yes some kids are just passing through on the way to the pros. But for the vast majority of seniors, this is the last football game they will ever play.

So the combination of adrenaline, coupled with the "Ya ain't got nothing to lose" mentality inherent in one's final game, make for some extraordinary moments in sport.

We're not talking about a rivalry where each year Heisman Trophy Candidates rise up to accomplish Herculean feats.

No, from Hart and Patton stopping Skip Face short of the goal line on the last play, and sending the Bears to the Rose Bowl fifty years ago, to Kevin Moen knocking over the Stanford trombone player to win the '82 Big Game with no time left on the clock--the rivalry is rife with "Ordinary Joes" accomplishing extraordinary feats.

It's what makes it great. Is there any finer expression of athleticism than what was once referred to as "The Old College Try?” The Big Game is nothing, if not a show case for "The Old College Try."

The Beauty of "The Old College Try" is that it is not dependent upon physical prowess alone. Heart, determination, courage, guts and grit are the ingredients of "TOCT.” It does not rely upon superior genes or talent. It is a state of mind--dependent solely upon the depth of one's character and the size of one's heart.
"The Old College Try" is not delivered in a vacuum. It is witnessed by family. One of the finest "families" one could ever be associated with--Old Blues.

As you read these words, I will have disappeared from the earth as you know it. Thursday, I leave the Valley to join the "family" and will not re-surface until Sunday. My days and nights will be filled with other rummies like myself.

There are dozens of reunions throughout the City. Wherever one gathers, it is the best one of the week. For us, The Mother of them all is the Friday Men's lunch. It was started over 30 years ago at the now defunct New Pizza. It was mostly ruggers, and former footballers--boys, Coach Joe Marvin once called "The fellows who fought the Battle of Berkeley back in the 60's". We know what he meant.

That's when our school yell went from "Roll on you Bears" to "Ashes to ashes/Dust to dust/We hate to go on strike/But we must, we must!"

No parents wanted their kids to come to Cal back then. We were considered a bunch of Commie, Pinko, Weirdoes. It’s a wonder football survived.

Franze defined the lunch with this classic line: "No invitations. That means no jerks. Just good guys inviting good guys".

We gather to re-tell the same old, stories--laugh way too loud--and return to the halcyon days of yore when everything was possible, and no one could best us--neither footballer nor female.

(In truth, we lost way more times than we won--in both areas--but who's counting). At least we gave it "The Old College Try."

Ours is a friendship held together over the years--not through our triumphs, but through our failures. For that's where the laughs are. In the screw ups. In the errors in judgment. In the vain attempts to be more than we were.

Had we been suave. Had we been cool. Had we succeeded each time--in class--on the field--with the co-eds-- we'd have little to talk about. And nothing to laugh about.

When the sentence begins with "How 'bout the time......." you can be assured it has nothing to do with a triumph.

Mostly it has to do with some humiliating failure which the PCer's would consider a lowering of self-esteem--and which we consider too funny for words.

It is good that we are off by ourselves. The world would never approve of our past shenanigans. It certainly wouldn't approve of the way we laugh about them now. We’d never pass Obama’s background checks.

We were not nice boys. On the other hand, we were just that--boys. Doing things that boys do, and grown men can look back upon and laugh at. Maybe it's a guy thing. My kids don't believe me, but no truer words were ever spoken than when we tell them at their moments of failure, "Don't worry. We'll laugh about this later."

If only they knew that it's not succeeding that matters. Giving it the "Old College Try" does. GO BEARS. GIVE' EM THE AXE1

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

KIDS SHOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY FOR REGENTS' MALFEASANCE


READ ALL ABOUT IT IN TODAY'S SFGATE.  JUST CUT AND PASTE BELOW:

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/If-UC-managed-its-endowment-better-it-could-skip-5902321.php




KIDS SHOULDN’T PAY FOR UC REGENTS’ MALFEASANCE

            In the hopes of picking up another $100,000,000 per year, the UC Regents are meeting this week to discuss UC President Janet Napolitano’s recommendation that tuition be increased by 5% a year over the next five years. 

Jerry Brown is not happy.  He thought he cut a deal in which the State would increase funding 4% to 5% over the next five years in exchange for UC freezing tuition.

Taxpayers can’t be happy.

What the Regents don’t want us to focus on is that there might never have been a need to increase tuition three fold since 2002.   Had they simply taken a page out Yale Endowment guru, David Swensen’s book, UC might not have had to raise tuition at all. 

Since 1985, Swensen has grown Yale’s endowment from just over $1 billion to $22.3 billion. Over the last two decades, he’s generated returns of 13.7% per year. UC’s endowment has grown 7.3% over the past decade.  When Swensen started managing Yale’s endowment, it only supported 10% of the school’s annual budget. Today it covers over 30%.

More than half of the UC endowment – a total of $11.2 billion as of June – is supervised by the regents.  Investment officers on individual campii manage the rest.

When taken together, that means every one percentage point increase in returns translates to $112,000,000 per year to UC—more than the $100,000,000 Ms. Napolitano expects to pick up with the new tuition increases.

According to an article from the Center for Investigative Reporting and published in the Chronicle last February 14th, “From 2004 through 2013 fiscal years, the investment payout for the UC endowment ranked last (7.3%) among the 10 U.S. universities with the largest endowment funds.”  Had UC matched the top ranked schools, “it would have earned an additional $5.4 billion over the decade,” they reported.

“Yale and Columbia earned the highest returns at 11%.  Public Universities like Michigan and Texas averaged 10%,” while cross-town rival Stanford came in at 9.9%. 

Despite the fact that the endowment returned a commendable 18.7% this past year (vs. Yale’s 20.2%), had the previous 9 years been managed effectively, cutbacks by the State would have been mitigated significantly and tuition increases held at bay.

If one Googles universities with over $5,000,000 in corpus, UC comes in 17th out of 18 in returns over the past decade.  

Five of these 18 Universities are public (UC, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Washington) and UC comes in dead last among the five.

How can we taxpayers allow the trustees of the “Greatest University in the World” to perform so shabbily?

UC Chief Financial Officer Peter Taylor told CIR, “Would I have liked to have earned 10 percent a year? Absolutely. Sure,” he said. “But how risky should a public university be?”

Well University of Michigan (as close to a “peer” as one can find) grew it’s endowment from $3.5 billion in 2000 to $7.9 billion in 2007, after a modest $1.9 billion increase over the previous ten years.  It’s now #8.  How?  They hired Eric Lundberg who turned things around using his version of the Swensen model.

I guess Regents can’t be sued for conservatively investing money (that’s code for protecting one’s backside).  But this failure to maximize our own endowment, and then asking families to make up the difference, is as close to criminal as it gets.

Rather than rail at the legislature for cutbacks; rather than recruit out of State students (who pay more) to the detriment of in-state taxpayers; and rather than raise tuition, why not just place a phone call to David Swensen or Erik Lundgren--offer to pay adult compensation (market rate)--and see who they would recommend that follows their formula?

Or pay them whatever they want to take the endowment and see what happens?

Endowments generally pay out 5% or so each year. By running a professional operation (as opposed to a “backside protecting one”), we could easily cover the projected tuition increases, and still have money left over to build the endowment--all without raising tuition.

We can agree that Regents have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to invest funds prudently.  

But are we talking prudence or malfeasance? However you view it, isn’t it time to fix it?

The Regents left $5.4 billion on the table these past 10 years.

 The Citizens of California deserve better.   




HAL'S INVITATION TO THE MEN'S BIG GAME LUNCH






Gentlemen of the Big Game Lunch,
Happy Big Game Week! This is the Big Game Lunch reminder.
Our group, defined by friendship and Cal tradition, is meeting, as always, this coming Friday, November 21, the day before the Cal/Stanford football game. Our tradition beckons us to meet for this annual reunion every Big Game Week at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club across from Washington Square in the heart of North Beach at 1630 Stockton Street, between Union and Filbert.
Please network this reminder and make plans with your old Cal buddies/teammates for our annual lunch and gathering of real Cal Bears.
See you there.
The Big Game Lunch Guys

Thursday, October 02, 2014

FIELD OF DREAMS








Who said,  “It’s so beautiful here.  It’s like a dream.  Can I ask you something?  Is this heaven?”

You’re right:  It was the ghost of Ray Kinsella talking to his son, John, as they walked on a baseball field which had been carved from an Iowa cornfield in the tear jerker, “Field of Dreams.”

As perfect as the scene was, John gives a slightly incorrect answer. “No.  This is Iowa.”

The correct answer is, “No.  This is Cal.”  At least it was last Saturday.

Yes.  Heaven is Cal on a fall Saturday afternoon for a 1:00 kickoff.  (Hell is “Berkeley”—but I digress).

Son John then asks his angelic father, “Is there a heaven?” 

Dad replies, “Oh yeah.  It’s where dreams come true.”

Dreams came true Saturday afternoon in Strawberry Canyon against the Colorado Buffalos.

And anyone who tells you that a 59-56 win is just as fun at one am after a 7:30pm kickoff ought to attend more 12 step meetings.

For it’s not just the final score that defines a Cal Saturday.  If it were about points scored—then it’s just about football. There’d be no need to go through the pre-game routines that transform this from a simple game played on a gridiron, to a tribal rite with all the attendant ceremonies and rituals which make a scared rite both sacred, and right.

Professor Alan Dundees could explain it better than moi, but you know what I’m talking about even (if like Potter Stewart said about pornography) you can’t define it but know it when you see it.

Keats said it best, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty/that is all you know on earth and all ye need to know.” 

Call it beauty.  Call it truth.  Saturday was the real McCoy no matter how you slice it.

Couldn’t be happier for the kids. 

Couldn’t be happier for us.  We  come for the sun—the fun—the band (when they let them play) and the “vibe” that surrounds college football.  It’s unlike any other sporting event. 

The particular game is always secondary to the daylong experience.  We may drop by dorms, apartments, fraternities or sororities to drink stale beer and relive the days of yore.

The three “P’s”, prevarications, prognostications, and pontifications—are found in abundance).  It’s what we live for.

It’s such a thrill to know more than any coach ever thought of knowing.

Games past are replayed and “wouldda, couldda, shouldda’s are brought back up ad naseum.  Hey.  It’s how we roll.

Personally, we sit high atop section D with an amazing view of the Golden Gate and the Bay Area spread out before us.  On occasion we glance back at the game.

We are Luddites, sitting with Lair-ites—young Cal Alumni with their kids and babes in arms.

Like we did once, they bring those youngsters here weekly (unless it’s a 7pm kick off) and soak up the family atmosphere as they did with their mom’s and dad’s back in the day.

It is a tradition that just feels right.  (It is of interest that young Geoff Goff’s parents used to bring him to Cal on Saturday’s and, co-incidentally, sat in section D (or DD?) as well.

Family is what makes us LOYAL Golden Bears.  We share a bond.  And if only one thing comes out of the Academic Task Force’s Report to the Chancellor, let us hope that it makes kick off times student-and-alumni-friendly—and that they return to the 12:30 or 1pm kickoffs on Saturday afternoons—no matter what the cost regarding the Pac 12 TV contract.

Speaking of the Chancellor’s Report, a tall good lookin’ guy wrote about 10 days ago that it would be released last Friday—which it was.  “Anonymous” had written on the blog earlier (and I quote), “As usual, this blog is riddled with errors. The task force report isn’t even finished yet.”

Why my wife bothers to write in I’ll never know.

The report is worth reading.  Mostly it’s about raising standards for entrance and making the programs more student centric—and switching the emphasis from athlete, to student--all good things.  Though it seems innocuous, the most meaningful switch was that the Athletic director would report directly to the Chancellor and not to the Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance, John Wilton.   Wilton is a rock star and extremely smart.  Make no mistake.  He’s been saving our bacon from an administration, which has been cooking it in extremis.

What this means is unclear, but it could mean that when a decision is brought forth (like playing Big Game in Levi Stadium because it generates more revenue) that the AD will do what’s best for the students and not necessarily what’s best for the bottom line.

This is both good and bad.  Who wouldn’t want to do what benefits students and athletes first?  We could all agree that that is the way a program should be run, until the real world interrupts and reminds us that women’s sports and “minor sports” all rely on Football and basketball to pay the bills. 

What might ideally be best might not be practical in the fiscal world we are forced to operate in.  Time will tell, but I for one salute the direction the Chancellor is taking.

THE REVENGE OF PENN STATE’S ATHLETIC DIRECTOR

Speaking of the plan to play our home Big Game in the 49er’s Stadium down in Santa Clara (which was mercifully stopped thanks to all the e-mails you sent to the Athletic Director and Chancellor), have you heard about the seating arrangements for the Oregon game which is being played down there Friday night Oct. 24th?

It works like this.  The University Club and Stadium folks are taking care of.   They will be in the “Sky Boxes” sections 236 to 242 (see stadium map) and have access to food and booze (it is unclear whether they will be paying or not, but one can guess).

However, the 49ers have retained all the other tickets for their season ticket holders, except seats “outside the 20’s” which have been reserved for Cal ESP holders.

This fellow’s comment on BearInsider sums it up perfectly:

You can add me to the list of unhappy ESP seat holders. My ESP seats in Memorial are on the 45 yard line, row 22. The tickets I received for the Oregon game at Levi's Stadiuim are in section C141, row 18; it looks like those seats are on the 20 yard line. No information was sent about access to any of the clubs at the stadium.

Not sure where the students will be, exactly, but you can bet that they won't be on the 50 like at Cal. And tickets that aren’t purchased by 49er fans can be purchased by Duck fans or Bear fans who are not ESP holders. (OK.  ESP holders can “upgrade” and sit inside the 20’s if they care to pay for it).

If you are wondering if that means there will be a huge sea of green and yellow on the 50 yard line—well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  So much for home field advantage.

As this started over a year ago, One wonders why Sandy didn’t say to the Niners, “OK, you have 6 months to sell your season ticket holders whatever tickets they want.  After that, we get to give the unsold ones to our ESP folks.”  Or even sell them for a slight upgrade.

Anyway, the distain for the good people who have contributed to the stadium goes on and on.  Do you realize this would have happened had we played Big Game down there?

You, who thought you had tics on the 40 or 50 would be sitting down inside the 20 as though you were at SC? 

As my friend says,  “Cal never knows how to say ‘thank you’.”

Anyway, this week it’s up to visit the aged Bar Flies, formally known as the WSU Cougars.  The Cougs are only favored by 3—essentially the “Home field” advantage.

The Palouse is rarely kind to us—and Leach is Dykes mentor.  One thing we know is that there will be a lot of plays—and that Hal Mumme (Google him) will be watching.

Hope their major donors don’t find themselves shivering in the end zone.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70 













Friday, September 19, 2014

AFTER NEXT WEEK CAL ATHLETICS WILL NEVER, EVER BE THE SAME










The report is on his desk.  It will be made public next Thursday or Friday.

During halftime of tomorrow night’s Bears/Wildcats imbroglio, Chancellor Dirks will have some fun reading.

And kudos to him—at this point. 

He has recognized that College athletics are undergoing a revolution and he’s not leaving it up to a bunch of white guys in blazers, who tell a lot of golf jokes, to figure out what to do about it.

Make no bones about it.  I want to make the world safe for young boys to run into each other at full speed and knock the snot out of one another. That's what young men were born to do, feel and be.

It doesn’t make them better than women.  It’s just something that (generally, but not always) turns them on more than it does the distaff side.

That being said, Cal’s Ray-Rice-video-moment came two years ago when the NCAA reported that our football team came in absolutely dead last (123rd) of all FBS (whatever that means) teams.

(The year before a tall good lookin’ guy wrote that Cal was 112th out of 122, but that didn’t even raise an eyebrow in the Athletic department or former Chancellor’s office).  How 112th was acceptable, but 123rd is not makes fodder for a future column.

Under former Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour our football team had undergone three consecutive years of APR scores of 934, 926, and 923 leading to five year average of  935.  It's not like we didn't have some warning regarding the State of Denmark.

Over 6 years only 44% of our kids graduated.  Basketball was worse.

(Last year the APR came up to 969 for a five year average of 938).

The Chancellor (with the guidance of rock star CFO, John Wilton) seems to understand that like a wine cellar after the Napa Quake, due to court rulings, concussions, Title IX infractions, potential law suits, “illiterate” athletes competing, academic fraud, cries of “pay for play,” unionization, drugs, cheating, payola, recruiting violations, booster abuses, arrests, and obscene TV dollars—college sports—how we relate to them--and their role on campus are apt to be unrecognizable to us five years from now.

There are a lot of moving parts.

So on January 14th at the behest of Chancellor Dirks, Penn State’s new AD put together an “Academic Task Force” headed up by Dr. Meg Conkey, professor emerita of anthropology. 

“We’re looking at how we can shine a light on those students who are able to major in molecular and cell biology and go on to vet school while winning a medal in swimming, but we also have to make sure to address the more negative experiences,” Conkey said.

So far so good.

Richard Rhodes, associate dean of the College of Letters and Science was quoted, “My aspirations (as a task force member) are to fix what can be fixed and to get the gross misconceptions about admissions corrected,” said “We don’t admit dumb jocks.”

Not good. 

Good manners prevents one from mentioning certain children who wore the Blue and Gold for a year or two and entered Cal barely able to read.  (My daughter talks of tutoring kids who had no idea of what a noun was).

If we’re going to solve this thing, we’ve got to start by being honest.  

(That includes dropping the façade that Football’s GSR is poor because so many leave early for the pros.  If they leave in good standing, THEY DO NOT COUNT AGAINST A TEAM’S GSR).  You can look that up on the NCAA website.

So what will the report say?

I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

Let’s stipulate that the sainted Pete Newell, and all former AD’s like Dave Maggard, Steve Gladstone and others came to the job with certain biases developed from their athletic pasts, education, family life and personal experiences.

That was no less true of Penn State’s current AD—and is equally true of the writer of this drivel.  We all have our biases and inheirant value systems.

To be polite, let’s just say that the value system of our last AD, especially vis a vis, academics, Alumni relations (the manner in which sports were cut—not the cutting), distain for all things Cal (eviscerating “Cal guys” from the athletic Department); not getting what “Loyal Golden Bears” are all about (playing our home Big Game in the 49er Stadium?); and personal ambition (building a personal resume at the expense of our school)—to say nothing of misunderstanding how Title IX works regarding eliminating sports--made for a difficult 10 years for some of us.

There were some pluses—John Montgomery, the Olympics and landing Missy Franklin were not the least of them—but I digress.

An expert in Paleolithic Art (I myself am on the Paleo Diet), Ms. Conkey is highly respected  and made her reputation in the Lascaux caves of France re-interpreting the 30,000 year old paintings based on her background in feminist theory and the anthropology of gender.  Discover Magazine named her among the "50 Most Important Women in Science."

She’s been the faculty rep for Women’s lacrosse and will certainly bring a fresh perspective to the two main revenue sports, Football and men’s basketball.

No doubt the report will talk of excellence and emphasizing the “student” side of student/athlete.

The words “time management” and “character” will be scattered throughout.

As a former member of the Women’s Athletics Board, I hope it emphasizes the way women athletes are academically kicking the backsides of men in most sports (Rugby, Tennis and Crew, not withstanding).

How they will address the “negative experiences” could be an eye opener—and is the opportunity for a game changer.

The biggest thing to look for, perhaps, is to whom the new Athletic Director reports. 

Currently, John Wilton, who is a brilliant financial guy, is in charge.  The A.D. reports to the Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance as she did to Frank Yeary, Nathan Bostrom, and Horace Mitchell before him.

With him, we are in good hands--and I'd hate to see us change at this point.   But the Chancellor isn't asking for the opinion of moi.

Will the committee recommend that the AD report to the Provost, or some other Vice Chancellor—marking a direct line to Chancellor Dirks?

Or will they split it in some fashion—revenue sports to one Vice Chancellor and non-revenue to another?

We live in interesting times.  

And if you are a fan of Cal Sports, nothing will be more interesting than what that report says next week.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70

For now it's speculation.  If you want to discuss it further, we didn’t lose all our Cab in the quake.  Stop by if you get up this way and enjoy some.


Chancellor’s Task Force on Academics and Athletics, 2014
Mark Brilliant – associate professor of history and American studies
Brandi Wilkens Catanese — associate professor of theater, dance and performance studies/African American studies. Co-chair of Academic Senate Committee, Student Diversity and Academic Development
Margaret Conkey — Class of 1960 Professor Emerita of Anthropology, task force chair
Joseph Crenshaw — Cal alumnus and former football player
Nzingha Dugas — director, African-American Multicultural Student Development Center
Rick Feller — head coach, women’s volleyball
Kai Felton — assistant coach, women’s basketball (academic liaison)
Kirsten Hextrum — Cal Alumna, former crew, currently graduate student in education.
Solomon Hughes — Cal alumnus, men’s basketball, Ph.D.; academic adviser, athletics ( men’s basketball), Stanford University
Rob Likens — assistant coach, football  (academic liaison)
Stefan McClure — student-athlete (football)
Vincent Minjares — senior adviser, Academic Study Center ( men’s basketball)
Mohamed Muqtar — assistant director, Student Services, Intercollegiate Athletics
Richard Rhodes — associate dean, College of Letters and Science – linguistics, chair of Academic Senate Committee on Admissions, Enrollment and Educational Preparation
Jenny Simon-O’Neill — associate director of Athletics, intercollegiate services; Intercollegiate Athletics
David Surratt — interim dean of students
H. Michael Williams — alumnus, wrestling; Board of Trustees, UC Berkeley Foundation
Sheldon Zedeck — professor emeritus, psychology; former vice provost for academic affairs and faculty welfare
Student # 2 — to be finalized (not a student-athlete)