When I saw on the Cal Athletics Facebook page that there was going to be a Women's basketball meet and greet and that it didn't conflict with my schedule, I knew I was going to head out. Being a student and not an established alumni it sometimes feels out of place going to these events. (It almost seemed like everyone but me knew Sandy Barbour personally) Nonetheless I had a fabolous time and although I have no photos (camera got stolen last month and my temporary iPhone 3 pictures didn't come out good enough), I can share some of what I experienced last night.
I don't have the best memory or attention span, so I'll miss a lot of things. I do remember that all the assistant coaches went around to all the tables and introduced themselves to everyone. I personally got to shake hands with Coach Kai, who I recognized from Twitter. No one else stopped by my table, but I personally went over to Coach Gottlieb and asked her to sign my Rally Comm rugby - joining the likes of Mike Montgomery, William Fitzsimmons ('10 Pajamarino Rally) and volleyball players Meagan Schmitt and Kat Brown. I wanted to get Sandy's but I wasn't able to.
At around 7:00 Sandy came up to speak. She started by congratulating the baseball team on their World Series berth, only bringing subtle remarks about elimination/reinstatement ("It's been a difficult, but fun, year" - paraphrased) and also mentioning that because of the baseball team (among other programs), Cal will have it's best Director's Cup standing (potentially #3 but probably no worse than #5) in school history.
The women's basketball program is considered to her to be one of the most important. It is the most exposed women's sport as far as television goes, so an elite program gives us credibility as a pioneer in women's athletics.
She talked about the process of hiring Gottlieb and her assets - leadership and being a student of the game - and her faith that this team will become elite once again.
Gottlieb came up and introduced her entire staff - most of whom were present, and called out the players who attended including Brittany Boyd, whose family was sitting at the same table as me, and Rachelle Federico (who graduated last spring, and coach made sure we were all aware that she has a degree and deserves a high paying job from anybody listening)
She talked mostly about the process of getting hired, noting that she always intended UCSB to be a long-term job, but she could not pass up a chance to return home to Cal and that life is never predictable. (As an example she stated not even Boyle probably knew she was headed to Virginia before the end of the season)
Also mentioned was the big story involving Justine Hartman - she was talking to one of Justine's coaches in an unrelated conversation, when the coach asked her unexpectingly about whether she had interest in Justine, who at the time was mainly interested in UCLA, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt. Of course Lindsay was interested, and she was able to get in contacts with Justine's family, who then got her in contact with Justine herself. After talking to her, she recieves bombshell news that Justine would visit Cal over the other three schools during Memorial Day weekend, and during that trip (so important that Lindsay forced assistant Charmin to cancel her planned vacation, and had several women's basketball players come in from Southern California in a van) Justine is convinced to come to Cal!
Lindsay was very emotional about coming back to Cal, talking about what she expects from the team and also the fans. She wants to see more people at women's basketball games. She doesn't want it to start slowly either - she expects crowds of 10,000 in the near future, and said that she wants to see Cal in the top 3 in the Pac-12 as far as attendance goes next season. (Then we can work on being #1 in the Pac-12, #1 in the nation, etc.)
Other details during Q&A
- There will still be chalk talks, possibly moved closer to game time for extra convenience to the fans.
- Our injured players - Avigiel and Brandon should be fine before the season starts.
- 12 players, all on scholarship, is the current count and there are no plans on adding walk-ons.
- Our conference schedule features home and aways between every team except Arizona/ASU, who we will only travel to, and Washington/WSU who we will only host. Lindsay was sarcastically sad about the lack of a Pullman trip.
- Our nonconference schedule, while not ready to be released publicly, will open at Rutgers ("Thanks Joanne Boyle!") and a Thanksgiving "tournament" in Hawaii. We will play Hawaii, Texas and... Virginia. Yes, we won't have to wait long to see Cal go up against Joanne Boyle's new team, but you'll have to travel to Hawaii to do so. We will be hosting Illinois and Ohio State, and our annual home tournament will feature UNLV and Cal State Bakersfield.
- She is excited about the new Pac-12 TV contract, which means more TV exposure to women's basketball especially on the new Pac-12 network, which means more women's games will be televised than ANY other conference in the nation. (Her words) This is obviously good news considering only three conference games were televised last year. Though she didn't mention whether this means we would see more games on the ESPN networks, she's confident Cal WBB will see more national attention in the upcoming years.
After the Q&A it was back to mingling, and not being one of the most talkative out there I decided to call it a night. But I was very inspired by the speeches Sandy and Lindsay gave. I know it is a ways away; we still have Baseball to root for and Football is coming before we know it. It was hard not to feel excited about the new basketball season (men and women's). Especially considering how disappointing last season was for the women's team. Winter and Spring 2012 (my final season as a student) just got more exciting!
Hopefully pictures will arrive from another source (I know there were official staff at the event taking pictures and video), but for now, GO BEARS!