Because Cal alumni will soon have to start ponying up for the Endowment Seating Program, it's a good time to gauge the temperature of our alumni. In short, it's time to find out how willing Golden Bears in the stands are feeling about the way their football team is performing and whether they'd ever be willing to donate to the athletic department..
I feel it's an important time to discuss these issues with a long and uncertain offseason ahead of us. Given that Cal football had its most disappointing season in over a decade, that the AD is under constant siege from the faculty, and the athletic cuts angered a great deal of alumni who love baseball and rugby (and to a lesser extent, lacrosse and gymnastics), I can only imagine that they won't be in such a forgiving mood. That's a worrying state of mind, considering Cal Athletics cannot move forward unless the donors are willing to help pay for it.
But there are also other concerns that go beyond wins and losses that could threaten the overall stability of the Athletic Department. Fans from all over have expressed concern that the fan experience is diminishing overall.
I'm wondering Cal alumni: What's your relationship with the athletic department like? Does it affect your passion for the football team? If you're a donor, what's your relationship like with the AD?
ragnarok: I doubt the ability of most Cal football fans, especially those that post on the Internet, to honestly separate their feelings on this matter from their feelings regarding the overall w/l record.
norcalnick: Is this a big issues for non-donors? I mean, donors matter, but I follow Cal much more closely than the average person and Tedford's rather paranoid handling of media matters hasn't impacted me in any way. I guess I want Cal to treat their donors well so that they keep donating, but I don't want them to bend over backwards too just because they give money.
I guess what I'm saying is that this may be a problem, but for a very small percentage of Cal fans.
Avinash: Well, this isn't for us. We'd follow Cal football if we were on our deathbeds.
This is for all the people out there (the casual fans, the rich fans), that make and keep Cal football running. The people who will finance ESP and Cal Athletics down the road with their ticket sales and donations, whether they be small or big. Will they be discouraged by performances like this season's and the hardly positive relationship between the AD and the alumni?
norcalnick: To the season performance, absolutely. If Cal football continues to play like this, it will drive away plenty of fans.
To the AD/alumni relationship, I think this is a potentially important issue, but a smaller one. From the sound of that above quote, it's an issue exclusively for donors who expect that their donation should buy them some level of insight and access into the program. I mean, what percentage of season ticket holders are a) donors and b) expect program info/insight/access with that donation? I don't know, but I wouldn't expect that the number would be very large. The casual fans couldn't care less about that kind of stuff. It's just wins and losses that they care about.
TwistNHook: These appear to be 2 separate questions. Regarding the driving away fans, thats separate from driving away donors. This former Golden Bear player appears to be a donor. His expectations go beyond W/L. He wants access. He wants something in return for his money. The people financing the ESP and paying big money are like this, too. No casual fan is all "Let me give $100,000 to Cal!"
Regarding what Tedford has done, it is unclear. There is the media thing, which is one issue. He did not provide any specifics as to what Tedford has done besides that that might cause him to be frustrated with the program. Without these specifics, it is difficult to determine the validity to any of his concerns.
Avinash: I would say that in many places around the country, donors are given a lot of perks that normal fans are not. Apparently, there seems to be a growing trend by people that believes they're feeling distanced from the program, which seems highly ill-advised.
One prominent Bear Backer had this to say.
Compare the Cal vs Furd game experience today:
Cal ESP: same food as always in the tent, not enough room, too loud and bathroom lines. Difficult to park, incompetent crowd control for those trying to park near the stadium, no crowd and traffic control once you leave the immediate stadium area, terrible congestion, no real place to meet friends, wet, ugly weather, lousy wet benches in overcrowded seating (some of this will change), no one really interested in feedback because the place is overrun with people, and a terrible atmosphere from a publicity standpoint with a coach who won't say anything relevant, and blames the fans for not showing-up to see a losing team. A lot of this is forgivable when you have a winning team.
Furd: good parking, good crowd control, nice stadium, ESP equivalent changes the food every game with superior food, enough room, nice seats, name tags, administrators and professors that meet and greet, pleasant atmosphere, no one watches the band, the good seats have a back and our covered from the elements, a coach that makes an effort to to answer the media honestly (sometimes speaking before he thinks), and real outreach to try and improve attendance: for example, THEY GAVE OUT SELF ADDRESSED CARDS TO EVERYONE IN ATTENDANCE TODAY ASKING HOW TO IMPROVE THE GAME EXPERIENCE. Also, the team is now winning.
Which school's program do you think is going in the right direction? There is more to work on at Cal than just the X's and O's. Is the Cal administration listening to its donors these days?
Alienating these donors (who ultimately foot the bill for Cal athletics) is a good way to set our sports teams up for failure in the long-run.
I understand many people will be like, "HEY, if we just win no one will give a crap about this stuff", but you have to admit an administration that makes its fans feel involved in the experience could go a long way with soothing feathers and keep people from making statements like "I'm withdrawing my support from the program." It doesn't feel like our AD is going the extra mile to make our team feel involved.
norcalnick: I'm curious how much of that we can blame on the AD and how much we can blame on the insane location + construction. Doesn't seem like there's a ton anybody can do about crowd control and space issues. Everything else sounds pretty bad though.
TwistNHook: I dont understand. Most of those relate to the differences between Cal and Stanford. A lot of the differences regarding the stadium relate to the fact that we have an 87 year old stadium on a major fault and Stanford doesn't. Sandy and Tedford have been DESPERATELY trying to ugprade all this and actually are in the process of doing so, despite the absolute insanity of the tree-sitters et al.
Apparently the Cardinal did a similar cost-cutting exploration and decided that cutting sports would cause a similar cut in donations. I wish the administration had thought about that possible blowback. The Chancellor might have decided that cutting five varsity sports would be the best way to cut costs to appease the rabid faculty members, but he might be horrified to find out that these cuts will entail a similar reduction in donations to the athletic department, and keep the losses going.
LeonPowe: Even with all of the things they're doing right on the Farm and everything the Cal Athletic Department isn't doing - our attendance is far better - and its not just about the size of the alumni and student body fanbase either - those remain fairly constant. The key is gaining those extra bodies from the community at large.