The Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Intercollegiate Athletics Financial Sustainability has issued its report containing key findings and recommendations regarding Cal Athletics. Convened by Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau at the end of March, eight leading members of the UC Berkeley faculty and alumni communities were asked to
- Develop an understanding of the recent and current financial and competitive state of the Intercollegiate Athletics (IA) program.
- Assess alternative approaches to promptly putting the IA program on a financially sustainable course.
- Assess possible impacts of changes in the scope of the department on philanthropy to academic programs.
- Develop a short list of promising alternatives, including the pros and cons of each.
The council’s report, along with the recently completed Interim Report from the Academic Senate’s Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics, is expected to guide and inform pending decisions about the Cal Athletics program and financial model. As noted in the following statement from the chancellor, those decisions are expected to be made and announced by the beginning of fall semester.
Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s response to completion of the report on Intercollegiate Athletics:
I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to members of the Advisory Council on Intercollegiate Athletics Financial Sustainability for their hard work and thoughtful analysis. They have produced a compelling report with a number of helpful recommendations. This focused collaboration between faculty and alumni generated fresh thinking on this complex issue that benefited from the combined wisdom of individuals who, despite their different perspectives, share a deep commitment to our university and its comprehensive excellence. This report and the Interim Report recently completed by the Academic Senate’s Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics are quite consonant. They will provide important guidance as we begin to sort through a number of possible approaches to put Intercollegiate Athletics back on a financially sustainable path. I agree completely with the Council’s finding that the Cal Athletics program is “sustainable if and only if it accords with Berkeley’s fundamental commitment to comprehensive excellence.” At the same time I also share the Senate Task Force’s belief that IA’s “expenditures and resources must be matched, and budgets must be met.”
In the coming weeks I will be working closely with Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary and Athletic Director Sandy Barbour on the detailed elements of a plan for IA’s future, with the expectation that decisions will be made and announced by the beginning of the fall semester. Although the issues are complex and controversial, there is an emerging consensus around key issues. After comparing the reports issued by the Council and Academic Senate Task Force, it is apparent there is now broad agreement that:
- The campus benefits greatly from our robust IA program which improves community spirit, helps maintain alumni relations, enhances philanthropy for the university as a whole and provides national institutional marketing.
- The campus can and should continue to allocate funds to Intercollegiate Athletics. Both reports suggest that an annual allocation of $5 million would be both appropriate and beneficial despite disagreements regarding how long it could take to reach that level and how long those allocations should continue.
- IA’s annual deficits must end through a combination of cost cutting, revenue enhancements and increased philanthropic support.
- A robust IA program supports and sustains philanthropic contributions to the university’s academic endeavors.
- IA is taking needed steps to improve its financial management and should be encouraged to continue on this path.
- IA is already taking needed steps to reduce its costs, including recent decisions that will trim $2.4 million from its annual operating budget.
- IA has taken the steps necessary to ensure the academic excellence and integrity of our student-athletes.
- UC Berkeley should consider taking a leadership role in the NCAA and Pac-10 regarding the national “arms race” that is driving IA expenditures across the country.
We must now translate our shared values and understandings into decisions, policies and practices that will make our goals a reality. Beyond the serious financial challenges that must be addressed, we cannot lose sight of the human element: the student-athletes, coaches, faculty, staff and alumni that form the foundation of the Cal Athletics community. They are the reason that we have an IA program whose academic and athletics achievements are consistent with our commitment to comprehensive excellence. They are the reason that the members of the Council all agreed that “a robust IA program is compatible with the values of an elite American research university, that it adds a valuable dimension to students’ academic and social experiences, and that its part of Berkeley’s specific traditions and histories is worth preserving.” I am confident that, thanks to the two reports, we now have a clearer path to achieving financial sustainability for Intercollegiate Athletics and preserving its great tradition as an integral part of Berkeley’s fabric.
Robert J. Birgeneau