Athletic Director Mike Williams to step down in May

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Cal’s Athletic Director Mike Williams, the man charged with helming the nation’s most debt-ridden athletics program, will step down in May 2018.

Williams informed Chancellor Carol Christ he will not seek an extension to his contract after being named to the position on a full-time basis in May 2015.

“It was probably a good time to think about turning the page and also potentially give the department different type of leadership and give me the opportunity to love Cal in different ways,” Williams said. “This wasn’t a career position for me.”

Williams’ successor faces a department saddled with more than $400 million of debt, questions regarding potentially cutting sports and top programs led by first-time head coaches.

“We (the campus) greatly appreciate that Mike Williams has provided the campus with ample advance notice of his intention to step down when his current contract ends in May 2018,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an emailed statement. “This will allow us to continue our work on achieving a balanced budget for Cal Athletics, even as we begin to prepare for the transition.”

Williams took over — initially on an interim basis — in July 2014 after former Athletic Director Sandy Barbour stepped down that June, amid a flurry of controversy regarding the department’s academics.

Those academics have taken a meaningful step forward under Williams, with the men’s basketball and football programs receiving their highest-ever four-year Academic Progress Rates.

“Mike has done an extraordinary job supporting and improving the academic performance of Cal Athletics’ student-athletes,” Christ said in a statement. 

With academics somewhat shored up, that debt becomes a clear priority for Williams’ successor. It has spurred annual interest payments contributing to what was a nearly $22 million deficit in the fiscal year 2016.

New campus budgets reveal the department considering cutting the scope of athletics, a move that implies cutting back from Cal’s 30 teams. Other steps that the department is exploring include selling alcohol at men’s basketball and football games, along with potentially tearing down Edwards Stadium to make room for campus housing.

“I believe it is time for IA (Intercollegiate Athletics) to start its next chapter with respect to how we operate based on campus’ long-term view of what the athletic department at Cal will look like going forward,” Williams said in a statement. “Athletics is a critical and integral component of the college experience and I believe we need to do everything possible to help it be successful.”


Hooman Yazdanian is the managing editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Tweet him at @hoomanyazdanian.