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Barbour is on the hot seat

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NOVEMBER 26, 2013

Cal football fans finally have some good news: After a season of missed tackles, inept coaching and too many injuries to count, our nightmare is over. Cal’s miserable, one-win season is over.

When Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, brought aboard in 2004, hired Sonny Dykes earlier this year  — inking him to a five-year, $9.7 million contract — the public’s hope was that he would return Cal’s football program to its mid-2000s Jeff Tedford-era glory, when the team was ranked as high as No. 2 in the country. Given our football team’s well-publicized academic failings, Intercollegiate Athletics’ and Dykes’ stated agenda of improving academic performance was an equally welcome change.

While the full impact of Dykes’ academic program has yet to be measured, the team’s failures on the football field, combined with the academic failings that punctuated much of Barbour’s tenure before Dykes, are troubling.

Barbour’s position is hardly enviable. As athletic director, she’s the one who must hire coaches to build environments in which student-athletes’ needs are met on and off the field. She, in conjunction with campus finance officials, has to make sure Cal Athletics raises sufficient revenue from sources such as football ticket sales in order to make sure the rest of the nonrevenue-generating sports programs can survive. Barbour is also accountable to the fan base to ensure that Cal’s teams remain successful on the field.

On a number of these counts, Barbour has succeeded. Women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb took Cal to the NCAA Tournament Final Four this past season. Four women’s sports recorded a perfect NCAA Graduation Success Rate, a measurement of how many student-athletes in a program graduated within six years between 2003 and 2007.  But these successes elsewhere don’t mask the prolonged failures under Jeff Tedford and this season’s abysmal conclusion.

The same GSR data containing the success in women’s sports, released last month, also show that only 44 percent of UC Berkeley football players enrolled between 2003 and 2007 graduated within six years. Men’s basketball had a 38 percent graduation rate over the same span of time. Both of these figures ranked as the worst in the Pac-12, and the football team ranked worst among 72 teams in the six major football conferences.

While there have been recent, positive developments — the campus recently released an updated GSR from the NCAA, showing that football players admitted to UC Berkeley now have an estimated 65 percent graduation rate within six years — the Contra Costa Times editorial board was correct to label Barbour “a reactive leader rather than a proactive one.”

There is definitely time for improvement, but Barbour cannot afford to let the football and men’s basketball teams slide backward — off the field or on it.

If she’s interested in holding on to her job, she doesn’t really have a choice.

Contact Senior Editorial Board at 

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NOVEMBER 26, 2013