Athletic Director Search Narrowing

We dig in to the very latest with the search for Cal's new athletic director, and there now appear to be two candidates that are pulling away from the pack, and perhaps one that's nosing ahead. What are the powers that be thinking? How will they reach their decision? Find out inside.

The University of California athletic department was reportedly close to naming a new athletic director, by some sources’ reckoning, at some point this month.

Further investigation into the situation with the most recent information available has revealed that the University is not quite ready to officially name a new Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, but there are two finalists, a source said.

The decision, at this point, comes down to several options, but, by all accounts, there appear to be two leading contenders at this point. The first is current interim athletic director Mike Williams, the former Cal wrestler who, according to a source, is already retired and donating his entire salary back to the campus, has built relationships with athletes, coaches and administrators, and who has not had any issues or crises arise under his 10-month watch. The only issue that he had to address was the issue of the lack of a permanent practice facility for Cal field hockey, an inherited situation which has is well on its way to being addressed. The bottom line, BearTerritory has been told, is that Cal in in a stable situation with Williams. Williams also serves as vice chair of the UC Berkeley Foundation and is a member of the chancellor’s prestigious Task Force on Academics and Athletics.

The second option is Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen, who worked at Cal as an associate athletic director from 2000-2002, but has stated that he is “happy at Memphis,” to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Bowen has been successful at Memphis, but calls the Bay Area home, and was an assistant football coach and athletic director at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. He also worked at Saint Mary’s, and with the San Francisco 49ers before helping revive the San Jose State athletic department.

“The process is going well but taking longer than initially expected,” a Cal spokesperson told BearTerritory. “Based on the candidates the committee has been meeting with, there is a good feeling about where we are currently while they continue to methodically work through the process.

“Given how much is at stake, it is important to the Chancellor that this search is done right and he has no problem taking extra time because he feels our Athletics Department is in good and capable hands right now.”

A source told BT not to expect the announcement to come in April.

The process has not been delayed, per se, but it’s just that the Chancellor -- Nicholas Dirks -- and the administration are not ready to make the decision and the announcement.

The reason for the extra time is that no one in the administration is in a rush to fix what isn’t broken, as it were.

The attitude of the administration, at this point, from conversations BearTerritory has had with several sources, is that the department, under Williams, has stabilized its relationship with the rest of campus. Williams has helped to integrate the department into the rest of the administrative structure and has dealt with NCAA reform and how it’s being implemented. What Williams has done has put the search committee in a position where the status quo – with the future promising even more stabilization for the department, as more permanent positions are filled under an officially-named athletic director – is preferable to bringing another outside hand in to take the tiller, unless, a source says, they are “completely blown away” by that outside hand.

There have been sources within the donor community that are concerned with having Williams at the helm, but Williams has good relationships with some of the major coaches on campus, in charge of three revenue sports – football, basketball and baseball (which has set attendance records three straight years and is moving towards a permanent endowment and more capital improvements).

The sum total of the conversations BearTerritory has had on the subject with sources in and around the athletic department, donors and other stakeholders leads this reporter to believe that the administration is leaning towards Williams, who initially stated that he was only to serve as an interim athletic director, but later stated that he had developed a taste for the job, and wanted to stay on, on a more permanent basis.

The department is recovering from a number of events over the past four years, including the ouster of former athletic director Sandy Barbour, Barbour’s handling of the men’s basketball hiring process that resulted in Nicholas Dirks and John Wilton choosing Cuonzo Martin after Mike Montgomery’s retirement, and before that, the financial hit the department took that necessitated the cutting of five varsity sports -- all five of which were reinstated when unaccessed or underaccessed donor communities stepped up.

At this point, the tasks of rebuilding good will within the university community, integrating the department of intercollegiate athletics further into the campus, advancements in academic accountability in the athletic department and building relationships with faculty and staff -- all spearheaded by Williams -- have provided the department a good base from which to jump off, once a permanent athletic director is named, and it's hard to think that person won't be Williams.

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