Kelley L. Cox / USA TODAY Sports

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks gives Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics more time to determine Cal's athletic future

In an update letter, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announces that the Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics will be given an extension.

In a letter addressed to "Friends and Colleagues," UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has announced that the Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics, which he convened in August, will be given an extension to consider the full scope and scale of the California Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The letter comes after an invitation-only town hall-style meeting on Monday, where the members of the Task Force listened to donors, coaches, athletes, stakeholders and alumni, with several speakers imploring the Task Force to convene more such meetings at more accessible times for the general public, rather than at 2 p.m., on the last Monday before Christmas. The timing of the meeting was informed by the fact that the Task Force was originally supposed to announce its recommendations by the start of the spring term, in January. They have yet to come up with any recommendations, the letter said. "... [O]ur initial expectation [was] that the TFIA would be able to present its proposals by the beginning of the Spring semester: in January, 2017," Dirks wrote. "Yet, early on I also made clear to the TFIA members that we would be ready to accommodate an extension if they felt more time was needed in order to complete this complicated task. During our recent meeting, the co-chairs reported that while they are making progress, more time is indeed needed because of the inherent complexity of the questions at hand and the time it has taken to consult and engage with the numerous stakeholder groups."

Dirks, it must be noted, announced, just after convening the Task Force, that he will step down from his post, when a successor is found for the Chancellorship. He has been in office since June of 2013.

In attendance on Monday were baseball donor Stu Gordon (when contacted, Gordon did not have time to speak about the meeting), Prof. Nadeson Permaul, Big C Society board member Chris Carpenter, Director of Parent Services at UC Berkeley and former Cal linebacker David Ortega, tennis coach Peter Wright, members of the Cal Band, several Cal Baseball Foundation members, Cal Rugby stakeholders and donors, Cal Rowing donor T. Gary Rogers, baseball coach David Esquer, Luella Lilly (Cal's Women's Athletics Director from 1976-1992 and a Cal Athletic Hall of Famer), track and field athletes, three Cal field hockey Olympians and others.

Rogers attributed his great success, "everything," to his rowing career at Cal, and as such, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Athletics to fully fund the operational budget of Cal Rowing (linked below).

PDF icon4-30-15_Gary Rogers IA MOU_M Crew.pdf

"While it is evident that there is an extraordinarily broad range of perspectives, opinions, and visions when it comes to Cal Athletics’ future," Dirks wrote in his letter on Friday, "I believe that all of us are united in the belief that the interests of the department, our University, and, most importantly, our student-athletes, are best served if we allow the TFIA the time necessary to meet the demands of a complex mission that will have a lasting impact on our campus and its extended community," Dirks wrote in his letter.

The full letter is available here: PDF iconTFIA Update Final - December 2016 (no review).pdf

Several ideas came out of the meeting, including separating the California Memorial Stadium debt from Athletics, given the fact that the Haas School of Business now holds classes at the stadium, and is a tenant. Another suggestion was that Cal, like several other peer schools, grant tuition waivers, and take scholarships off the operational budgets entirely, or not charge Athletics out-of-state tuition for out-of-state athletes -- another practice used by peer universities -- and to essentially stop pulling from the left pocket to put money into the right.

"There were a couple of good ideas. Consensus seemed to be that somehow the stadium debt had to be divorced from operations or we'll never get out of this endless cycle. But how to do that?" said donor Ken Montgomery. "There was only brief touching on admin / faculty relations with athletics."

When asked how long this extension is to be, and whether or not there would be more such town hall-style meetings, a campus spokesman did not respond. One donor, a source said, recommended that the Task Force have another meeting for donors, "at a time when we can all get our donors there." 

A member of the Cal Band, one source said, said that the student population is alienated and poorly treated. "I am Class of 2014, and I am your future," the student said, according to a source in the meeting.

The meeting on Monday was, by accounts of several individuals who were in attendance, not a true town hall, in that the Task Force members did not answer questions, but rather listened, as donors and alumni took turns speaking for three minutes, each. It was led off by Robert Powell and Robert O'Donnell apologizing because "not everyone got the invitation," because it went into e-mail spam folders, as several donors told BearTerritory before the meeting.

"The Chair started the meeting by saying they wanted ideas and that was, honestly, the only interaction from the panel, other than letting people know their 3 minutes was up," Montgomery said.

Field hockey coach Shellie Onstead asked several questions of the Task Force, including how the Task Force picked the "peer schools," to review, and whether the Task Force had made progress on how to satisfy Title IX numbers (should sports be cut), but was not given any answers. The meeting, campus spokesman Dan Mogulof said last week, was intended to be "more of a listening session."

"I found almost nothing productive about it at all other than getting to meet folks," Montgomery said. "And I think that's because the purpose either wasn't clear or people had their own agendas. There seemed to be a lot of talking about saving particular sports, as if that is what was on the table, but it wasn't. People got up and talked about how important athletics was to them in their lives, but again, we all know that. Almost everything said has been said and heard before."

Former Cal kicker, Giorgio Tavecchio, also stopped by, and offered his perspective to BearTerritory, as he was a silent observer.

"A few individuals presented interesting ideas for how to reconcile the budgetary issues facing Cal Athletics, though in my limited knowledge of the intricacies of the circumstances, it really seems as though there is red-tape and confounding issues at every turn," Tavecchio said. "The bottom line with this group is that Cal Athletics is a lifeline for school-spirit and alumni life. Alumni and friends of Cal are passionate about helping and are only waiting to be included in the solution." Top Stories