Campus & community, Campus news

Berkeley leaders examine 'turbulent time' in athletics

By Public Affairs

A panel of UC Berkeley leaders, incuding Chancellor Carol Christ and Athletics Director Jim Knowlton, discussed the state of intercollegiate athletics on Thursday. (UC Berkeley video)

There has "never been a more turbulent time in college athletics," Chancellor Carol Christ said during a Thursday conversation on the state of intercollegiate athletics at UC Berkeley. 

Christ, speaking during an online Campus Conversations event, was joined by Jim Knowlton, director of Cal Athletics; Oliver O'Reilly, vice provost of undergraduate education; and Maximilian Auffhammer, chair of Berkeley’s academic senate. 

The panel of speakers spent an hour discussing the recent changes to college athletics, including name, image and likeness rights, the transfer portal, legal challenges regarding student-athletes as employees and a conference realignment that will send Berkeley from the Pac-12 to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The panel acknowledged that the changes could test how colleges and universities consider their student-athletes — as scholars or athletes first. 

At Berkeley, Knowlton said, it would be an equal balance.  

"The most important thing for me is maintaining the ideal that we've had of the student-athlete, the opportunity to compete at the highest level in your chosen sport at the same time that you're earning a Cal degree," he said.

Over the course of the hour-long conversation, which included the opportunity for questions from viewers, the group discussed the financial situation of Cal Athletics, the future vision of Berkeley’s program and the pros and cons of Berkeley’s move to compete in an eastern seaboard athletic conference. 

O’Reilly noted that while he saw a need to support student-athletes traveling across the country, there was an upside for the campus as well. 

"I think there's an opportunity here for us to showcase the brilliance of Berkeley on the East Coast, to engage with alumni and supporters on the East Coast and to get more support for Berkeley from the East Coast," he said.