Sandy, Sandy, Sandy, you find yourself in an interesting situation right now. I've reviewed the documents, crunched the numbers, and provided an analysis of how I felt you had been doing as Athletic Director. My bottom line was that I thought you had been going a pretty good job overall. Yes, there are the problems relating to the academics and yes there were some financial difficulties in the latter part of the Aughts. However, both those situations are improving. Additionally, sheparding the Memorial Stadium Upgrade through the insane Berkeley process, including the tree-sitters and lawsuits, reflects extremely well on your tenure here at Cal. So, on the whole, I think you are doing well as AD.
And sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who thinks that. I see a steady stream of people, both in my real life and also here at CGB, who think you have overstayed your welcome at Cal. In looking at these people's arguments, they seem to be based off of a few things. Firstly, they focus a lot more than I do on the on field success. Since the football team has been mediocre to historically terrible this last half decade, they hold that against you. They think that you should have fired Jeff Tedford earlier than you did or that you should not have hired Sonny Dykes. Their arguments range from reasonable to insane.
When you couple this lack of on-field success with a misunderstanding of what you have and have not accomplished at Cal, these people think it is time for you to go. If your fortunes rise and fall with those of Sonny Dykes and Cuonzo Martin, that is one thing. You only have so much control over how the football team and MBB team perform out on the field after you make the hires.
Having said that, you do have much more control over the "misunderstanding of what you have and have not accomplished at Cal." It is well past time for you to exercise that control. Most people get their Cal news from media sources like the SF Chronicle or Jon Wilner down at the Mercury News. These media sources are not favorable to you. They are not even, in my view, reasonable towards you. You don't have to go any further than the recent discussion over the MBB coach job opening to see that.
The Chronicle basically said to you that you were wasting your time to even consider anybody who was not Travis DeCuire. The Chron blames you for doing what every single other school in America would do: hiring a third party search firm to assist you in what is a complicated decision.
Yet Barbour confirmed that Cal will hire DHR International to conduct a nationwide search. That's the same firm that discovered Sonny Dykes, the football coach who - thus far - has not exactly been a fabulous hit at Berkeley. Cal has not revealed how much it spent for DHR International's help, but according to Forbes magazine, fees can range up to $250,000 for a Division I coach.
She has retained the executive search firm DHR International, which helped Stanford identify Jim Harbaugh and San Jose State find Mike MacIntyre
Maryland senior associate athletic director Randy Eaton will chair a seven-member search committee charged with finding the football program's next head coach, the school announced Wednesday. The school also announced it has hired Pat Richter of DHR International, an executive search firm, to be the lead consultant on the search. Richter formerly served as the athletic director at Wisconsin.
So, using third party search firms, including DHR, are incredibly normal, but the Chron makes it sound like you are only hiring them due to your own weakness. Wilner blasts you even further, basically saying you are (or at least should be) powerless to make this decision.
Barbour has been involved in a series of missteps for the athletic department, from the budget fiasco and the Memorial Stadium financing mess to the embarrassing graduation rates.
She is also responsible for hiring football coach Sonny Dykes, whose rookie season could not have been worse.
The combination of events have cast Barbour's long-term future at the school into doubt and undermined confidence in her judgment within the Cal athletic community.
Will she be handed the keys to the basketball search, free to present her favored candidate to the administration for approval? Or will her every move be vetted as thoroughly as the candidates themselves?
Not only that, he throws in a bunch of "missteps" without providing any nuance as to the reality of the situation. We've gone over these "missteps" ad nausem, but at a certain point it does not matter. The media influences the minds of the average fans. They will read these articles and take them as the gospel truth. They will be less likely to even know of a place like CGB, let alone go through one of my complex, lengthy analysis articles.
When one of these events occurs, my experience has been that the Department puts up a page at CalBears.com countering the allegations. Not only is that reactionary, it is just as likely to be ignored as any one of my posts. It's unclear to me what the readership of CalBears.com is, but what I do know is that anytime you are relying on people to comb through dense paragraphs of text on the internet, it will be an uphill battle. Period.
This isn't just about you trying to save your own job. This is how people view the department as a whole. If they think you are doing a bad job, they will think the department is doing poorly. They may be less likely to donate or even attend games. Your #1 responsibility is to put the Department in the best position possible, including maximizing donations. This is counterproductive.
Moreover, this is not a plea for you to get into screaming matches with Wilner and Co. Not only should you try to stay above the fray, it's also too late by that point. If you are responding to the media, you've already lost the narrative.
You need to create the narrative. You need to control the narrative. You need to dictate the terms of the narrative. I see two key ways you can do this
More press conferences. Make it a monthly event. You can use it to keep people up to date on the comings and goings of the various sports, which is great. More important than that, you can use it to announce upcoming news, go over financials (which are wildly misunderstood by the public), and just get the Department's party line out there. Additionally, it will humanize you and put a (hopefully more positive) face on the Department itself.
This would be especially important if you know of bad news that is about to break. Get to it before it gets to you. If you know that bad APR numbers are about to come out in the news, discuss the situation in your press conference first. If you know that you are in talks to have the Big Game at Levi's Stadium in 2014 (and that your fanbase on the whole would absolutely, positively hate that), get that information out there with your slant on it. Bad news will be unavoidable in your line of business, but it always seems to kill the department when it happens. Cal has a slow response times to items like the APR numbers and the Levi's Stadium Big Game and then fans get only one side of the story.
BERKELEY -- A proposal to move the 2014 Big Game from Berkeley to the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara that could have "potentially" earned each school an additional $1 million in revenue was declined Thursday by Cal, which said it didn't have the chance to properly explain the opportunity to its fan base.
Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour said she wasn't so much caught off guard by the negative reaction of fans to the proposal, as she was by the awkward timing of information that leaked to the public.
"Because of that, we'll never really know if we had been able to properly (frame) the message, what the response would have been," she said during a media teleconference. "Our community got caught flat-footed without any explanation of a why or a what. Of course the reaction was pretty strong."
I get that it is a bit tougher to stay ahead of the game when news breaks abruptly like that, but you need to realize that if you are proposing something controversial like this, it could easily break early. This is not to say that Cal should or should not have the Big Game at Levi's Stadium, but this is just an example of a situation where you would have been benefitted had you had a press conference saying something like:
"Cal is considering agreeing to the Big Game at Levi's Stadium in 2014. We realize that this is a break from tradition, but here are the following reasons why this would actually be very good for Cal:
2. Etc etc"
If you do not want to gussify up and get all the media around you, try a radio show! WSU's Bill Moos does it. It airs on some radio station, but they can be downloaded on iTunes. This is on a weekly basis, which may be too much. I think it is a much easier way to get the result here without all the trappings of a press conference.
That is the first way you could help improve Department PR and stay ahead of the game. The second way is by having your own blog. I realize you are busy. You are basically the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation with an extremely unique set of products to sell. Get the interns to actually do the writing of the blog. So many interns! You just tell them what to write. The blog can supplement your monthly press conferences with daily/weekly updates regarding various sports, key issues of the day, and other various Department discussions.
I would recommend not enabling comments, because in general internet commenters are terrible, terrible, terrible people more akin to underground mole people than aboveground people people. Except for CGB commenters. Those individuals who I greatly respect are the best! If you enable commenting, you'll just get a steady stream of detractors and idiots. It'll provide no value to the site.
You already do a great job on Twitter, but Twitter is a somewhat unapproachable resource by large parts of America. It has its own internal language that can be opaque unless you use Twitter a lot. Additionally, it is not a great medium for getting out arguments about this issue or that issue. Don't stop the Twitter, though!
Those are my thoughts on how you can improve Department PR, which will not only assist you with job security, but also assist the Department in receiving donations and putting the athletes in the best position to succeed. I'm sure there are many other ways and I hope that the great CGB commenters provide their thoughts on just that in the comments section below.