For the second straight year, dballisloose attended the SoCal Recruiting event (check out his posts from last year here and here), which allowed many of the most passionate Cal alumni a chance to interact with some of the most prominent leaders in Cal Athletics and Cal football.
Due to time constraints, he couldn't post these himself, but all credit for the content, the transcribing and the reporting goes to him. Send him kudos or buy him a beer next time you see him.
Once again, the Cal Athletic Department and our friends at Bear Insider graciously hosted alums at the Mountaingate Country Club in Los Angeles. As in years past, our esteemed Athletic Director, Sandy Barbour, and Linebacker Coach Kenwick Thompson were joined by Jim McGill from Bear Insider as they gave a review on the state of Cal athletics, a summary of this year’s incoming recruiting class, and brazenly answered our pointed questions…which were much more pointed than in years past.
This is part one of a two part post of the event. Part One addresses the overviews from Coach Thompson and Sandy Barbour. Part Two will give us insights into what to expect in 2012.
First up was Coach Thompson, who must be tired of answering questions about Tosh by now because he immediately addressed the situation by saying that no one man or one recruit defines Cal football. In fact, the recruits who came "are the ones that are supposed to be here, and the others are the ones we’ll deal with come gameday". He went on to say that the kids we got are all really motivated, loyal, and have conveyed to coaches that they understand the importance of certain goals and expectations of Cal fans (like going to a Rose Bowl). We can be certain they’ll play hard for us.
Thompson also compared the role of a recruiter to being a car salesman: You know at the end of the day you want the recruit to buy your product and you’ll do whatever it takes to sell him on your program, but the good recruiters are the ones that make sure that product really fits the features and priorities the kid has in mind. For example, a recruit might say his top three priorities are academics, playing time, and the geography/location, but the recruiter has to peel back the onion to determine in what order those are really the priorities, to make sure that what Cal can offer is really a fit.
To elaborate, say we have a bunch of WR’s on the roster and there’s a WR recruit from the East Bay. Maybe the kid says Cal’s academics, location, and playing time are all important. The recruiter then has to make sure that academics and location are truly more important than playing time, because of all the other WR’s already on the roster. The recruiters don’t want to mislead the kids and sell them a product that doesn’t fit. Might seem obvious to many readers, but was insightful to some of us in the room.
Recruits are also very in tune with social and traditional media. With the increase in signing day presentations, the way the events are streamed online and broadcast across the country on nationalized broadcasts on major networks, recruits are pushing for glory and attention earlier and earlier in their careers. Coach Thompson cautioned that this could be a dangerous slope, and kids are often thrust into the limelight before they’re emotionally and psychologically ready. The result? Kids are changing their minds more often than they have in years past. This also comes into play with this year’s recruiting class and all the adventures we had in the two weeks prior to signing day.
So what about Tosh? Coach Thompson said he and the other coaches all acknowledge that while this is a business, the timing of Tosh’s departure was the biggest factor that soured the relationship between them. On moving forward, Coach Thompson cited the lack of contingency and communications planning was exposed, and led to an inability of the athletic department to control the news and messaging in the public space.
In particular, going forward we should expect that all coaches on the staff will become more fluent in the use of social media, and that the program will be putting in place a plan and standards for how to use social media both proactively and reactively. I’ll be looking for Tedford’s Twitter account to be updated more than once a year (since this post was written, it's been updated twice. RIP Whitney.).
The one thing fans should understand about recruiting is that the coaching staff employs a matrix approach to building multiple relationships with recruits between a geographic specialist (e.g. Coach Thompson has Texas and many southern states), a position coach, the offensive or defensive coordinator, and Tedford. Thus, if a coach leaves, there should still be 2-3 more coaches with whom a recruit has built a relationship, which should mitigate the risk of the recruit leaving.
At the end of the day, recruits might choose to leave but those will be the ones for whom the value proposition of being a Cal student-athlete were not as compelling as their relationship with the coach, and we’re better off in the long run because being at Cal is a complex and multifaceted experience and we want people here who will embrace it.
Barbour took her turn at the mic and began by sharing some additional information about Tosh and the process.
Barbour and Tedford first gave Tosh a raise when his former teammate and Oregon alum and recruit (pun intended) Tosh to join them.was made defensive coordinator at the University of Washington (refuting the common sentiment that Cal was back on their heels while Sark the puppet-master directed the strings). This was a proactive attempt to retain Tosh, knowing that Wilcox and UW would be likely to try
In total, Barbour and Tedford would make three different offers to Tosh, with each attempt requiring them to go to a booster group to solicit additional funding to make up the gap. The last time an offer was accepted by Tosh, there was an implicit agreement not to entertain additional offers from UW.
But UW kept calling, and we all know the rest.
To arrive at an offer that would be competitive enough to retain Tosh, Barbour had to weigh a variety of issues including internal equity across the coaching staff. Any alum who has been working for a while will be familiar with the nuances of organizational behavior and the negative effect that inequity of salary can have on the team. However, there were several questions asked about the athletic department’s budget, fundraising, and the revenue sharing from the television package.
For one, we really don’t have much insight into where UW gets the funding to pay for their coaches’ salaries. Interestingly enough, Cal’s athletic department has roughly the same operating budget as the other major schools. Where we differ is in the way our budget is distributed across significantly more sports and student athletes (Oregon has half of the student athletes that Cal has on scholarship).
Essentially, we’re faced with an expense issue rather than a top-line revenue issue. Money that would otherwise go towards the football program and coaches’ salaries gets deferred to pay for women’s gymnastics, for example. The difference in funding between Cal’s football program and that of University of Oregon or USC’s football programs is about $5M-$8M per year. To compound the issue, we won't have much transparency what the other schools do with their expected revenue from the television package isn’t something we’ll have transparency into. Cal’s athletic department will use the money to make up the deficit in our fundraising and distribute remaining funds to those Cal athletic programs that are losing money.
The major take away from this discussion is that we’re in the midst of an athletic department arms race with the other schools in the conference, and the only way around it is to cut our expenses (read: athletic programs) or increase fundraising specific to the football program.
On a positive note, the SAHPC is here, and the finishing touches are supposedly amazing. Underwater treadmills? Sign me up! And while the Big Game being played so early in 2012 has ruffled a lot of fur, Barbour was fresh off a flight from Texas where she and the other Pac-12 athletic directors were negotiating with the commissioner an agreement that would essentially rotate the pain of early rivalry games across the conference in such a way that in 2013 and 2014, the Big Game would be moved back towards the end of the season (but before Thanksgiving weekend so fans and students can all attend).
In Part Two of the recap, there will be more details on the impact of the SAHPC on recruiting, and some insights into which incoming recruits we can expect to see on the field in 2012.