Now that football season has ended, this column will return to covering whatever Cal/Pac-12 news is most relevant for the week.
Sometimes, being a Cal fan can be wearying. When the Bears are losing their 7th straight Big Game just two days prior to MBB losing to SDSU still playing without Jabari Bird, before Kam Rooks gets hurt . . . well, it can be hard to tamp down the cynicism.
But the men’s team has been undefeated (admittedly, against a weak schedule) since, the WBB team matched their best start ever with a dominating home win over Nebraska, and it was all capped by a stunning two-day performance from men’s water polo to capture a national title. Two come-from-behind overtime wins in the span of two days is the stuff of legend, and for my money there may not be a better celebration in sports than rushing the pool as the clock strikes 00:00.
And Cal fans needed some good times ON the field of play, because OFF the field of play news has ranged from annoying to outright maddening.
The Cal Field Hockey field debacle
In case you aren’t familiar with the particulars, please give this excellent Daily Cal article a read and catch yourself up on more than three years of bureaucratic failure.
Honestly, I hardly know where to start with this one. I get the sense that the Daily Cal article is only scratching at the surface of what’s been going on inside Cal’s athletic department. So let’s just go general here.
If you weren’t already aware, I happen to be a public employee. You’re probably aware that public servants don’t have a great reputation. But I also believe in the importance of the public sector, and not in some kind of pie-in-the-sky ideal - I mean in actual, legitimate results that better the lives of the public we are supposed to serve. But I can’t in good conscience hold that opinion if I don’t demand performance from public agencies.
So when stories come out that show public employees to be incompetent, I get angry.
Right now, Cal has 11 positions on staff with the title of Associate Athletic Director or higher. All of those positions pay more than $100,000. One of the biggest critiques of the NCAA’s monetary structure is that it creates huge revenue that CAN’T go directly to athletes. Since that money has to be spent somewhere, it goes to palatial arenas and bloated administrations dedicated to making even more money. I don’t know how Cal’s athletic department (with, currently, ~325 total positions) compares to the average, but if we’re going to have a bloated administration, then at least I would hope that it would prevent the type of problem that would cripple a sport at the cost of $7 million while simultaneously exposing the university to Title IX lawsuits.
I really don’t understand how something this basic gets screwed up. Surely somebody in the department who recognized the possibility of a lawsuit would have elevated the problem? Surely, as soon as it was raised to the athletic director, a solution would be found?
Evidently not, because this problem has been in the news for some time and festered all the same. The first reference to the issue being in the news I found on CGB comes from late 2014.
This couldn’t happen at a worse time for the department, which makes the actual events all the more shocking. It’s not that long ago that the department nearly cut four sports, and have been hounded for years by various interests for running constant deficits. Appearing either incompetent or uncaring towards a women’s sport is only going to increase in number and volume the collection of critics towards intercollegiate athletics.
Cal will soon be hiring a new chancellor, and this chancellor will be asked to make some tough decisions. It would behoove athletics to put the best foot forward. Instead they will arrive at the meeting metaphorically sweaty and disheveled, unprepared to answer questions.
Another year of December coaching rumors
Meanwhile, if reports are to be believed, there’s a reasonable chance that Baylor will offer Sonny Dykes their head coaching position, and a reasonable chance that he would accept. And if both of those steps come true, the athletic department described above will be in charge of replacing him at a critical juncture for the entire department.
Which isn’t to say that, should Cal need to make a hire, that there is no hope. Cuonzo Martin was hired and apparently retained during the same period of AD turbulence. Besides, plenty of seemingly bad hires turned out fine and plenty of seemingly good hires turned sour.
For now, we sit in limbo with Schrödinger's coach, hoping that IF he remains in Berkeley that the constant rumors and reports don’t hurt Cal’s ongoing recruiting efforts.
Cal Men’s Basketball - doing the needful, but a big week in Hawaii would really help
The Cal men are 6-1, with a forgivable loss to a solid SDSU on a neutral court. On the downside, they do not yet possess an RPI top 100 win and none of their victims are remotely likely to reach such status this season. To compound matters, the Pac-12 hasn’t been holding up their end of the bargain in non-conference play - the Pac-12’s conference RPI is 6th best in the nation, closer to the A-10 and the AAC than to 5th place SEC.
This is thanks in part to mediocre performances from teams like Washington and Oregon St., and thanks in part to really poor schedule strengths from teams like Utah, Colorado, and, yes, Cal.
That makes upcoming neutral site games against Seton Hall and Princeton so critical. Both are likely to be value wins on Selection Sunday. We’ll have more on both teams tomorrow morning as we preview the Pearl Harbor Invitational.
Cal women’s basketball: How good, exactly, are these Bears?
Two facts: 1. Cal women’s basketball sits at 7-0, tied for their best start in program history. Six of those wins have come by at least 15 points. 2. Cal hasn’t beaten a team anywhere near the profile of a tournament at-large team yet.
As such, it’s very, very difficult to say how good the Bears are. But I feel confident saying that they are getting better. Their last two wins, Duquesne at home and Nebraska on the road, were tougher than average for their schedule, but both were as dominating as any so far this season. The additions of MiCole Cayton, CJ West, and Jaelyn Brown have added balance and depth to a roster that had neither last year, and Cal’s returning players are flourishing as a result.
The other big difference? So far this season the Bears are shooting 39.3% from behind the arc (18th in the country) and teams are getting punished for packing the paint on Kristine Anigwe. Cal’s offense has been lights out all season long
Sagarin Ratings attempt to account for strength of schedule by evaluating margin of victory, and those rankings put Cal 32nd in the nation, firmly in NCAA at-large territory . . . but only 7th in the rugged Pac-12, where eleven Pac-12 schools are in the top 42.
Cal won’t have a meaningful test until they face Oklahoma in Las Vegas just prior to Christmas. But the real test begins in conference play, where the Pac-12 looks deeper than ever before, likely the best conference in the country. Unlike last year, the Bears appear to have the depth to handle the grind.