The Sacramento Report: It's Been A Tough Fall

Sandy Barbour got a raw deal.  In the wake of major cuts to the Cal athletic department a number of different people expressed their extreme displeasure with the decision to cut baseball, gymnastics, women's lacrosse and to reclassify men's rugby.  Many went so far as to directly blame our athletic director.  I am of the opinion that that blame is misplaced.  Barbour has been Cal athletic director since 2004. In that time she has had the dual challenge of growing revenue, decreasing costs and continuing to field a successful athletic program - all during perhaps the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

At this week's Grid Club meeting Sandy Barbour was the guest speaker, and she began by saying that "there is no question I won't answer, though you may not like the answers." Throughout her talk she was forthright and open and afterwards I felt much more knowledgeable about how athletic department finances work.

I was also impressed with the Cal alums in attendance.  On multiple different occasions the audience broke into spontaneous applause.  It happened when Sandy said three different things 1. Cal's continued improvement and success in the classroom.  2. The athletic department's belief in teaching athletes to become leaders in the community 3. When Sandy said that 'there is no doubt in her mind that Jeff Tedford is the man to take the football team to where we all want to go.  It's been a rough year for the athletic department and an up and down year for the football team, but those are three things I'll applaud every day of the week.

In addition to the long conversation with Sandy Barbour, offensive line coach Steve Marshall called in to answer questions.

Note:  As always, all guest responses are paraphrased based on my notes and best recollections.

Steve Marshall

What will the offensive line try to do against Oregon?

Our challenge is the spped of Oregon's defense - they are great athletes, fast and underrated.  They will send lots of 5 and 6 man pressures, and we need to stay in manageable downs and distances.

On the current status of Matt Summers-Gavin

He's now playing at left guard and we moved Schwenke to the right, but there has been a rotation on inside offensive line positions all season long.

On the problem with penalties against Oregon St. vs. lack of penalties vs. WSU.

We didn't play well enough, we didn't get it done, but we did a much better job against WSU.  12 offensive penalties is simply unacceptable.

On Brock Mansion

He's feeling confident, but it's a big test this week with Oregon's defense.  I've been continually impressed with how he's handled everything so far.

Any insight into home/road struggles?

I knew you were going to ask that!  This league is so competitive - you could ask that question of many teams in this conference.  That's football - winning on the road is just so hard.

On the excitement of playing the #1 team in the country

As we speak lots of guys are watching tape in our trailers right now.  Oregon may be #1, but that doesn't guarantee anything.

Thoughts on why run blocking has been ahead of pass blocking

The hardest thing to teach is dropback pass protection in a pro style offense, so run blocking is almost always ahead.  But i think we're better than last year - Mitch (Schwartz) is one of the best tackles in the United States - I think he's only allowed 1 sack this year.

Any thought to calling tackle eligible plays?

Well, you never know, but I won't spill the beans - there might be an Oregon guy in the audience!

 

Sandy Barbour

Sandy's opening thoughts covered a wide range of topics, from some background on the decision making process on cuts to a snap shot of what is going on with every Cal program:

On the cuts

To start, just let me say that it's been a tough fall, and really, a tough 18 months.  When I was hired, in my interview, I told them I was the wrong person to hire if they wanted to cut sports - it's not what I want to do.  And it wasn't the chancellor who pushed for cuts either.  When I was hired my clear goal was to grow revenues, and we have succeeded in doing so.  But unfortunately expenses have risen as well.  But it's important to note that our athletic department is extremely efficient.  Cal is 9th in the Pac-10 on spending per student athlete - we get a great bang for our bucks.

It started in 2008-09, when our projected revenue came in below expectations for football, and for men's basketball.  In addition scholarship costs went up.  So all of a sudden we have an unprojected deficit.  Now, prior to that Cal sports operated with a certain level of institutional support from the University.  I do not consider that running under a deficit - if the University pledges a certain amount of money each year because they value what athletics brings to the campus, then we were not running under a deficit.

So, when the decision was made to lower the level of institutional support to 5 million dollars a year, we were faced with two choices - vast, across the board cuts to every program, or cutting individual programs.  It is my opinion that across the board cuts would result in comprehensive mediocrity, so we made the difficult decision to make individual program cuts.

On volleyball

I've talked to some volleyball people who are telling me that our team has the talent to win it all this year.

On APR rates and graduation rates

They have never been better, but they can still improve.  Our goal is to have our athlete graduation rates equal that of the general student population graduation rates.  And when we reach that goal we'll strive to make sure that every program's rates match the general student population.  We demand good students.

On Mike Montgomery and the basketball program

Basketball has a young group this year.  You know how Mike is - he's been saying things like 'I'm not sure if we can find the gym' and 'I'm worried that we'll shoot at the wrong end of the court.'  But he's always underselling things and he'll have them playing great.

On Cal avoiding some of the off-the-field problems that have plagued other programs.

We're proud of it, but it's tough.  We forget that these are 17-22 year old kids, but it's a commitment that we believe in from the AD on down - doing things the right way.  You know, it used to be that if somebody wanted to hire one of your coaches they'd give you a call, just as a courtesy, but that doesn't happen any more.  But I still do it, and it's a part of what we try to teach - doing things the right way.

On Pac-12 divisions

We refused to give up annual L.A. games.  I would have preferred Cal in the southern division with L.A. and the Arizona schools, but we had to make compromises.  The commissioner felt that configuration would be unbalanced, but with guaranteed games against UCLA and USC we got what we wanted.

On Auxiliary support

The one thing that really bothered me was then people said that we're not an educational program, and that we shouldn't get the same kind of support that other auxiliary educational programs on campus get.  Our coaches and programs teach our student athletes so much, and many of them say that their participation in sports was the most valuable part of their undergraduate experience.

Can Pac-12 revenue eventually help bring cut sports back?

Well, we projected out, and Pac-12 revenue will absolutely help.  But it has been overstated.  Right now we get about 6 million/year in TV revenue, and we projected that it will go up to 12 million/year.  So that's 6 million more.  But it will turn into only 2 million/year more after taking away new expenses.  For example, men's basketball will be playing more games during the week and travel pods will change, so more flights will have to be chartered - the Pac-10 was the only major conference that wasn't chartering for every game in the past.  We'll have to buy back marketing rights from ISP.  We'll have increased maintenance costs for new buildings, and we're anticipating higher tuition costs.  It's possible that the Pac-12 TV deal with be worth even more, but right now it will be critical in keeping up with rising costs.

On the Giants winning the World Series this year and the potential for conflicts with Cal football if the same thing happens next year

It's a big risk, though interestingly enough if you overlaid Cal's schedule with the playoff schedule from this year there wouldn't have been any conflicts, which makes me slightly less nervous about next year.  USC (on a Thursday night) and Utah are the potential conflict games, and USC can't be moved because it's a big Thursday night, national TV game.  The Utah game on a Saturday could be moved a day or two if necessary.

Are you concerned about the downward trend in football results impacting revenue?

I'm always concerned about revenue - it's something I have to think about every day - but I am 100% behind Jeff Tedford and there is no doubt in my mind that he will take us to where we want to go.

Any decisions on how tickets at AT&T will be given out?

We'll be announcing AT&T ticket plans on December 1st.

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