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UC Task Force Holds Town Hall On Potentially Cutting Cal Sports, Key Donors Not Invited

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Bureaucracy strikes again!

New York Times Schools For Tomorrow - Day 2 Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times

Chancellor Dirks’ task force on intercollegiate athletics held a town hall Monday in which many expected to hear a proposal to once again cut Cal athletic teams.

The invite-only town hall meeting was scheduled for 2pm and more than a few top donors as well as coaches were inexplicably left off the invite list. Furthermore, alumni of several programs concerned about the future status of their sport were also not notified of the meeting. More from Ryan Gorcey.

That task force announced in an e-mail sent to "alumni and donors" on Dec. 2 that it would hold a town hall meeting -- the first purportedly public access to the task force -- but is holding that meeting ("more of a listening session," said one Cal spokesman) in the middle of a work day, close to the winter holidays, during Winter Break.

"I have three top donors, and they should at least be top of the list, and they didn't get it," said one women's coach, who requested anonymity. "A lot of my alumni did not [get the email]. I felt obliged to forward it to my alumni. If they wanted it to go to donors and alumni, it's a really poor effort."

There is frustruation from major Cal donors, including Stu Gordon.

The former Bears left-handed pitcher and partner at the law firm of Gordon & Rees (the general consul for the University of California) told BearTerritory that he and other donors were frustrated about the lack of communication between the school and the major donors.

"I just think we just don’t know enough about what’s going on [with the task force]," Gordon said, during a wide-ranging conversation that covered football, baseball and other topics. "A lot of us [donors] feel that way. There's so much going on in Athletics at UC Berkeley ... that we just don't know about, because of lack of communication."

As expected, cutting Cal sports is back on the agenda.

Three coaches -- one men's, and two women's -- contacted by BearTerritory are heading up programs that could very well be in danger of cuts.

"We're all feeling vulnerable right now," said one women's coach. "Especially the non-rev sports."

The fact that a task force has been commissioned has raised plenty of concern. It’s very similar to what happened before sports were cut over a half-decade ago.

The current task force's charge from Dirks (in a letter obtained by BearTerritory, dated Aug. 16, 2016), is to answer the following questions:

For each element of IA's program, what are the costs and benefits to campus?

How do the requirements of Title IX affect our choices about how to reshape the program?

Given the costs, benefits and regulatory constraints, what is the appropriate scale and scope for the total program?

In addition to the scale and scope, are other changes, e.g., organizational or structural, needed to achieve financial stability?

How much will the campus need to invest on an ongoing basis in order to sustain IA at this new level?

If that looks familiar, it's because the 2009 Chancellor's Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics under Robert Birgeneau was charged with an almost identical agenda.

The Gorcey story is extremely well-detailed. I’d recommend reading it in full.

As the university continues to struggle with mounting debt, their inability to effectively communicate to key stakeholders deserves to come under scrutiny. This is a familiar story that is just once again brewing and there should be more news to come tomorrow. Stay tuned...

Update from the university with important context pertaining to Gorcey’s article: 1:00pm pacific

It is, however, possible that some folks in these categories did not receive an invite, depending on the preferences they chose regarding email communications from campus.

First, the invitations to the town hall were sent to all who donated to IA in the last two years; Endowment Seating Program participants; and other donors who have made significant contributions to IA over time. A total of about 10,000 invites were sent out, and based on past experience we expect about 150 people to show up. It is, however, possible that some folks in these categories did not receive an invite, depending on the preferences they chose regarding email communications from campus.

There was also another piece provided from the university with important context:

At this point not a single decision has been made, and not a single recommendation has been formed or offered by the Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics. The work of the task force is being guided by its members shared belief that the University benefits from a strong, financially sustainable Intercollegiate Athletics program that has the ability to provide Berkeley’s student athletes with what they need to succeed on the field of play, in the classroom, and in their post-graduation lives. In that context the TFIA has an obligation to consider and analyze the widest possible range of scenarios and strategies as part of its efforts to develop constructive, viable recommendations that will increase the department’s revenues and/or restrain its costs.