College Guide


June 19, 2013 10:25 AM UC Berkeley’s Disaster Sports Program

By Michael O'Hare

It’s not surprising that IA is insouciant about operating costs. What passes for financial information at IA is this annual P/L (don’t even ask about a balance sheet; we don’t need no stinkin’ balance sheets!). Looked at closely, it has many perplexing entries, of which one is an item for “direct facilities cost” of about $2m, which would cover operating about 200,000 square feet of office space. The SAHPC alone is about 140,000 square feet, and a small fraction of IA’s total real estate. Who is paying to light and heat and clean all their space, including but not limited to a whole basketball arena wrapped in thousands and thousands of square feet of offices? Is it any wonder that IA has a campus reputation for opacity and arrogance, if not flat mendacity?

The next chapters of this story will be continued financial wreckage (ameliorated a little if the economy turns upwards) dumped on the campus, and mismanaged by the same team – in particular the same athletic director (she has an MBA, by the way) and athletic financial director – that has a decade-long record of bad judgment and who got us into the current half-billion-dollar (and growing!) hat trick of losing teams, losing money, and academic failure.

We do have a new chancellor. I know little about him: if he’s a ‘football fan’ in the style of our departing leader, meaning that he leaves his critical faculties and his courage at the door when he deals with intercollegiate athletics, we have no hope. If he wants to lead a university more than he wants to cheer the occasional touchdown and party with boosters, he will clean a lot of house at IA, and install leadership that has some hope of getting the ship through the rocks without foundering completely and bringing the rest of us underwater with it.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.


  • Tim Smith on June 19, 2013 11:18 PM:

    As a former student-athlete at Cal as well as a Cal grad and major donor, all I can say is ...another hatchet piece by whiny little anti-sports wanker. Part of what makes Cal a great, world-class institution is the fact that we have a fabulous sports program. Our student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the field. Deal with it.

  • kate on June 21, 2013 11:17 AM:

    As a former graduate student tutor at Cal, I would caution donors, journalists and supporters of Cal sports as well as anti-Cal writers to be careful about the way sports program are lumped together and not lose sight of the need for less practice time (maybe less = more targeted & effective time) for players. Student athletes in the revenue sports are not graduating well and not getting through without handholding through no fault of their own.
    Instead of adding more money aesthetic of the sports, why not add more money to increase the quality of the programs that need it & improve the time set aside for education so that the athletes can actually be students, and learn to be independent students. That said, many athletes do excel in the classroom, but if you broke the Cal student athlete population down by dollars earned for the school, you would see major gaps in the educational achievement of students.

  • Benny Kovacs on June 24, 2013 2:37 PM:

    Intercollegiate athletics is a fundamental part of UC Berkeley. The mismanagement of money is not the fault of Intercollegiate Athletics; it's an endemic problem that starts with tons of mid-managers with large salaries who do next to nothing and continues with the fact Cal is the only UC campus that robs funds from its state allotment to maintain the "Physical Plant" and uses it for academic reasons. Athletics is a scapegoat to the university's financial situation due to it's visibility. Without athletics, fundraising for academics would drastically suffer; this according to every development officer I've ever encountered. Cal has one of the best athletic departments in the country and the stadium remodel was mandated by the state due to earthquake. Cal will never be the University of Chicago; and your specious logic gains attention but lacks truth.