Message from Chancellor Dirks

To the Members of the UC Berkeley Community,

I am writing to inform you that Cal’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Sandy Barbour, will be transitioning to a new role on campus beginning on July 15, 2014

Sandy is the longest serving Director of Athletics on this campus since the men’s and women’s programs were combined in 1992, and I have the utmost respect for her extraordinary commitment to the university, our intercollegiate program and our student athletes. During her tenure, Sandy compiled a legacy of many major accomplishments; here is but a small sampling:

  • The “Directors’ Cup” rankings are the single best measure of the overall quality of intercollegiate athletics programs. In the decade before Sandy arrived, Cal finished in the top ten only twice. During her time as Athletic Director, we finished in the top ten six times, and just missed a seventh when we wound up in 11th place for the 2011-12 academic year.
  • During Sandy’s tenure, we won 19 team national championships and 92 individual national titles – numbers that account for nearly 30 percent of championships won in Cal’s entire history.
  • Thanks in large part to Sandy’s hard work and dedication, construction of the Simpson Center was completed in 2011. Her leadership in the planning of, and fundraising for the project enabled us to provide modern training, medical and academic facilities to hundreds of student athletes who had, in the past, been underserved.
  • Working closely with Chancellor Birgeneau and members of his leadership team, Sandy played a key role in bringing to fruition a project that had been discussed for decades without discernible progress: the renovation and seismic retrofit of California Memorial Stadium.
  • During the summer Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012, Cal alumni and student athletes won a total of 40 medals, a count that many countries would love to claim as their own.
  • During her time in office, Sandy oversaw a development effort that raised more than $315 million in gifts and pledges for Cal Athletics’ scholarships, operations and facilities.

There is much more, including, perhaps most importantly, the terrific group of coaches Sandy has worked to recruit and retain, and the achievements of our student athletes, both while they were at Cal and after they have graduated. More than anything else, we have been the beneficiaries of Sandy’s integrity, optimism, relentless energy and dedication to everyone involved with the Cal athletics program.

During Sandy’s tenure as AD, we have weathered difficult financial times, and on occasion we have been disappointed by some notable deficiencies in the academic performance of the football team, though the overall performance of our student athletes in this regard has been excellent. Sandy provided exemplary leadership during all this time, taking responsibility when necessary and working tirelessly to improve our program in every dimension. During my first year at Cal, I have deeply appreciated Sandy’s wisdom, experience and passionate commitment, and I will continue to benefit from her perspective and advice.

However, after numerous discussions Sandy and I came to the conclusion that the time is right for her to pursue a different set of professional interests she has long harbored, while the university begins to seek new leadership for Cal Athletics. I believe that intercollegiate athletics in general, and the Cal program in particular, stand at a crossroads as we seek to better balance academic and athletic interests, and explore ways to improve the relationship between student athletes and the institutions they attend. Being the Director of Athletics at a high-profile place like Berkeley is an extraordinary challenge; even in the best of times people in these positions face constant scrutiny, and that can be draining. Given the challenges and opportunities that lie before us, we believe our university will benefit from leadership that can provide new energy and a fresh perspective.

One of the reasons for this summertime transition isthat it will allow Sandy to be fully prepared to begin the next phase of her professional life with the start of the new academic year when she will begin work with Berkeley’s Extension Program to develop an academic program in sport management, an ambition she has had for some time. I am enormously grateful for all Sandy has done for our athletic program, and am personally delighted she will continue to work with us in a new and exciting arena here at Cal.

(Note: Read Sandy’s own message to the Cal community here.)

We are extremely grateful to Michael Williams, the current Vice Chair of the UC Berkeley Foundation and a former Cal student athlete, for agreeing to serve as the interim director until we complete a national search for our next Director of Athletics. Mike has deep experience with the management and financial operations of complex organizations, and an equally deep level of knowledge about and engagement with our university. He has served as Vice Chair of the UC Berkeley Foundation since July, 2013, sits on the Advisory Board for our Division of Equity and Inclusion and, perhaps most importantly, has been one of the most active members of my Task Force on Academics and Athletics. Another reason for the timing and manner of this transition is that, in preparation for new leadership, I want Mike to help us assess the current goals, challenges and opportunities for our intercollegiate athletics program – something he can do unencumbered by the past and without having to worry about securing a role in the program’s future. Beyond that, he will be uniquely situated to support the evaluation of the Task Force’s findings and develop strategies for implementation of its recommendations – subjects we will have more to say about once the report is released.

I also want to afford Mike the time and opportunity to engage members of our community in a discussion about the skills, experience, personal attributes, values and knowledge we need in our next Director of Athletics in order to fully manifest our commitment to do whatever is necessary to help our student athletes realize their full potential both in their sports and in their academic careers.

I will have more to say about our search for Berkeley’s next Director of Athletics in due course. In the meantime, please join me in thanking Sandy Barbour for all she has done, and wishing her well in her new chapter at Cal. Please also join me in welcoming Mike Williams to the athletic department at this critical time for the future success of our intercollegiate program.

Sincerely yours,
Nicholas Dirks