Michael Williams named director of athletics

Michael Williams, who has overseen the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics on an interim basis for the past 10 months, has been named the school’s full-time director of athletics, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced Friday.

Mike Williams

Mike Williams takes the microphone after being formally announced as Cal’s new athletic director. (UC Berkeley photos by Norbert von der Groeben)

“Since becoming the interim director last June, Mike has, at every turn, demonstrated the full complement of professional skills, personal attributes and deeply held values that are the recipe for success and accomplishment in one of the most challenging positions on this campus,” Dirks said. “As an alum, a former student-athlete and successful leader in the financial sector, Mike understands, on both a human and organizational level, the unique set of interests, needs and challenges that must be addressed so that our exceptional student-athletes can thrive on the field of play and take full advantage of the educational opportunities our university offers.”

Williams brings a comprehensive knowledge and a deep understanding of the university and its community through a range of perspectives, from a member of the wrestling team as an undergraduate to nearly 15 years of volunteer service for a variety of campus initiatives and programs, and most recently as interim director of athletics since June 2014.

“I am honored to accept the offer from Chancellor Dirks to serve as director of athletics at my alma mater, an institution that means so much to me and my family,” Williams said. “At UC Berkeley, we can offer a world-class education with an incredible athletic experience. My belief in that ideal has only strengthened over these past 10 months as I have been able to both lead and witness firsthand the extraordinary abilities and dedication of our student-athletes, coaches and staff.

“Ultimately, our goal is to build the strongest intercollegiate athletics department possible while furthering the right conditions for success,” Williams added. “Our priorities are to support our teams in their quest to compete for and win championships; continue to improve our student-athletes’ everyday experience and find more ways to better integrate student-athletes and staff with the campus. We will also keep our focus on building and growing the department in the right direction. My expectations are high and I expect nothing short of a strong, positive and collective effort from everyone involved.  We have the opportunity to coach, teach and mentor a world-class, amazing group of student-athletes and make sure they are well prepared to face and change the world following their experience here at Cal.”

Dirks, Williams

Chancellor Dirks presents Williams with a “No. 1” Golden Bears jersey.

In addition, Williams will focus on continuing to manage the department through the current NCAA reform, fostering a culture of philanthropy and capitalizing on current and future significant revenue generation opportunities.

Williams began his professional career at Data Resources, Inc., before becoming a debt trader and corporate finance officer for Bank of America. He joined Barclays Global Investors in 1993 and retired from the company in 2009 as vice chair of Capital Markets. Other roles at BGI included head of the Global Index and Markets Group, where he was directly responsible for over $1.1 trillion in assets, head of Global Securities Lending and CEO, president and trustee of BGI’s mutual funds.

Williams was elected to the UC Berkeley Foundation Board of Trustees in 2007, joined the Foundation’s executive committee in 2009 and has served as vice chair of the executive committee since July 2013. He is also on the advisory boards of the UC Berkeley Division of Equity and Inclusion, the Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund, Bronze Investments and several nonprofit boards, including the California Heritage Trust. He is also a former member of the executive board of the College of Letters and Science.

Additionally, Williams served as an active member of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Academics and Athletic, which  issued a report last September with more than 50 wide-ranging recommendations intended to maximize the academic performance of student-athletes and the overall quality of their campus experience.

“Mike’s deep experience with the management and financial operations of complex organizations and an equally deep level of knowledge about an engagement with our university are clearly invaluable assets in his new position,” Dirks said. “As a result, he is also well-prepared and equipped to help Cal Athletics successfully navigate through a period of change, challenge and opportunity as the NCAA and the Pac-12 Conference move to address issues related to student-athletes’ status, welfare and academic performance.”

Among his responsibilities since assuming the interim director of athletics position are serving on the Pac-12 Athletic Directors’ Council, the Chancellor’s Executive Leadership Council, the Campus Leadership Council at Berkeley and, since January 2015, as a member of the Athletic Study Center Review Committee.

“This decision reflects great trust in Mike’s skills, judgment, determination to address past issues, and ability to elevate Cal’s program to new heights,” said Robert D. Haas, chairman emeritus of Levi Strauss & Co. and a member of the Chancellor’s Board of Visitors. “Of course, his Cal affiliation was an added bonus, but this was a decision grounded in the merits, not sentiment.”

The selection of Williams came after an extensive national search to find a director to oversee an intercollegiate program that supports 30 athletic teams and 850 student-athletes. An advisory group composed of students, staff, faculty and alumni considered and defined the characteristics desired in a successful candidate, and a broadly representative search committee evaluated prospects for the position.

“At the end of that process it became abundantly clear that Mike Williams was far and away the person best-positioned and -equipped to lead our storied athletics program at this point in our history,” Dirks said. “Mike shares our conviction that as university administrators and educators it is our responsibility to provide all that our students need to realize their full potential and to take advantage of the incredible educational, cultural and experiential opportunities that Berkeley offers.”

Williams earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1982, and received an MBA in finance from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA in 1988. He and his wife, Jeanne, have three children and reside in Lafayette.

While agreement has been reached on the terms of Williams’ employment, a contract has yet to be finalized. Per UC policy, information on the contract will be provided once it is completed. Beyond base compensation, the contract will include academic and athletic performance bonuses, which are contingent on reaching academic performance thresholds.