Friday, November 21, 2014


....."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




            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.   


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