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Sandy Barbour Stepping Down as Cal Athletics Director Instant Reactions Roundtable

On Thursday, we broke the news that Sandy Barbour is stepping down as the Cal Athletics Director, this is our instant reactions to that news. Tell us your reactions in the comments.

How do YOU feel about Sandy Barbour stepping down as the Cal Athletics Director?
How do YOU feel about Sandy Barbour stepping down as the Cal Athletics Director?
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Ragnarok: Not that it was terribly surprising, given some of the department's struggles over the past few years, but the timing (middle of summer, no major decisions looming) was unexpected for me.  I'm left wondering "why now?"

Sam Fielder: I agree with Rags here.  There was always a small but vocal minority that seemed to want Sandy gone, but the timing of it all is very curious to me as well.  Obviously I'm not privy to any of the back office machinations that may or may not have gone on, but I think generally Sandy has done a good job and if she's being forced out it is a bummer.  Sure there is room for improvement, but name a place where there isn't.  So really, I hope we make a really great hire on this otherwise I think we end up worse off.

Boomtho: I think Sandy did a pretty good job, with fundraising perhaps Sandy's biggest area of opportunity. Still, I really appreciated her enthusiasm and support for ALL Cal sports and am very thankful she had the persistence to push through critical changes like the Memorial upgrade. I wish her best of luck in her next job - and I think the bar is pretty high for whomever comes in next.

atomsareenough: I didn't have any major problems with Sandy. I think she was a fine AD for the most part, did some good things, made a few mistakes. On balance, I like the direction she's taken things, and there were many very successful Cal sports during her tenure. Most of her coaching hires have been pretty good. But I'm hopeful we can find a good replacement for her. The thing I do worry about is what the new AD will mean for the new football and basketball coaches. I worry less about basketball because Martin is just starting out and he seems to have the support of Vice Chancellor Wilton, which is valuable. But I think this definitely increases the pressure on Dykes & Co. to turn things around quickly. The new AD almost certainly will not have as much patience as Sandy would have. Even steady improvement may not be good enough if the new AD sees an opportunity to quickly make his or her mark by replacing the football coach. While I like that the bar will be raised in some sense, I for one would be happy with steady progress, and would not like to see the football program thrown into a state of tumult once again after such a short time, unless it's quite evident that Dykes isn't working out. Unless things completely fall apart this year, I'd like to see Dykes get this year and next to get us back to being a winning program. We'll see if the new AD believes the same.

Ruey Yen: Given that there were murmurs that Sandy's role in the MBB head coach search recently was marginalized by the chancellor's office, this news is not that surprising to me. Since Sandy's contract is ending next year, I think the timing is appropriate as she will otherwise be signing an extension right now if the University were to retain her. Since Sandy is clearly not retiring, I wish her the best of luck on her next job (except when they plays Cal, of course).

As for Sandy's legacy, I think the Cal Athletics overall has had a decent performance during Sandy's Cal tenure - swimming and diving, in particular was able to step up from a program that produces top Olympic athletics but no NCAA team titles to become a dynasty. Of course, Pac-12 has always been the "Conference of Champions" and rightfully so, Cal's overall success is still below that of private school like Stanfurd (and their pursuit of Director's Cups) and USC as well as other public institutions like UCLA and Oregon.

While everyone will focus on the revenue making sports and the implications there, I am optimistic that the new AD will do justice to the other 28 Cal sports since there exists that culture within the Pac-12 to pursue championships in the Olympic Sports. Other than Sonny Dykes, I don't really see any of the other coaches being particularly tied to Sandy and be in a position to fear for their job SOLELY BECAUSE of the impending regime change. Cal also still needs to find a new Lacrosse head coach right now, by the way.

With the Pac-12 Networks broadcasting more games and requiring some infrastructure upgrades, I am also optimistic that the Olympic sports will get added financial supports that way because having more games of any kind on the Pac-12 Networks is good for the University.

I don't know what is the typical tenure length for a major university AD, but Sandy has had a long and mostly good run here in Berkeley. She is forever an instrumental part of the storied Cal Athletics legacy.

Leland Wong: The timing was most surprising because of our two new head coaches in our big revenue sports.

Barbour had mixed success at Cal, but I think it seems much worse because the majority of her bad decisions happened with the revenue sports, namely the too-long stay of Coach Jeff Tedford, the abysmal APR/GSR of Football and Men's Basketball, and the highly-publicized tree-sitters debacle. On the other hand, Cal experienced great success in the oft-neglected Olympic sports under her leadership. In the ten years before her, Cal reached the top ten in the Directors' Cup only twice; during her ten-year tenure, we hit that mark six times. She led our Cal Athletics during a period of time that saw us win "nearly 30%" of all our national championships.

Many of her greatest accomplishments were immediately criticized because people wanted more. First conference co-championship in football in over thirty years? When are we going to win it outright? Memorial Stadium renovations and the Simpson Center? Why didn't it come sooner, faster, and cheaper?

This is not to say Barbour was perfect. I have issue with coaches getting excessively long contract renewals, which ends up costing us financially or with poor performance. Her biggest mistake was letting the academics of our revenue sports suffer when she should have been responsible for ensuring our teams' commitments to those areas.

Vlad Belo: Based on the complete body of work, I think Sandy's tenure as Cal AD was overall a success. We saw outstanding performances by programs in the Olympic sports in both competition and in the classroom (for the vast majority of the sports, looking at APR stats). We saw national championships in men's and women's swimming and the first Final Four appearance in school history for the women's basketball program. (As someone who has followed Cal women's basketball since the late 1980s, that accomplishment by Lindsay Gottlieb's team cannot be understated. That was a HUGE deal.) Memorial Stadium was built during her watch and she was largely successful in her choices for head coaches across all sports. (Of course, the jury is still out on the Sonny Dykes hire.) But there is substantial room for criticism. The way that the downsizing of sports was handled was not ideal. Nor were the overall marketing efforts of the athletics department. The lack of commitment to baseball, a sport that has become more high profile over the years and will continue to be with the Pac-12 Network, has stuck in my craw. And most glaringly, the poor APR performances in the revenue sports (especially football) were a black eye on the University.

All of that said, the good outweighed the bad. The job of athletic director at Cal is an enormously difficult one and I think Sandy did a good job of navigating all of the pitfalls that come with Bear Territory. I don't doubt that it was probably time for a change in leadership at the top, and I know that Sandy has her detractors. But all I know is that she was the best athletic director Cal has had in my 26 years of Cal fandom.

LeonPowe: I was pretty surprised when the email hit my inbox. learning that her contract was up and she was at an extend or leave crossroads makes it more understandable. Maybe I'm naive, but it really does feel like a mutual decision between Sandy and the athletic department.

Having spent ten years in any one job is probably a good time to make a break anyways, and I think the majority of people would characterize Sandy's tenure as mixed to positive, and I know she's left the department in much better shape than when she started, with a new stadium and success in major sports (although we'd all agree football hasn't been good in 5 years) and winning in many of the other sports on campus.

I think not only ten years in one job, but ten years in the difficult job of Cal's athletic director would cause someone to look for other opportunities anyways.

I wish her well, I think she did a decent-to-good job, but I am not wishing that she stayed either. I liked her a lot, but I think it will be interesting to get someone new in the job as well, and to help us level up as a program.