In midst of budget crunch, 2 senior Cal Athletics staffers leave UC Berkeley

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Cal Athletics lost two of its most senior financial officials this summer, just as it prepares to find a way to close its more than $20 million budget deficit.

Ashwin Puri, the department’s chief revenue officer, and Jeremy Wang, its chief development officer, announced their departures in July and June, respectively. The two were major pieces of a Cal Athletics staff tasked with finding a way to get a handle on the department’s more than $400 million debt, the largest of any athletic department in the country.

Puri, who leaves September 5, will become vice president of strategy and business operations for the Oakland Athletics. Wang moved to Temple University, where he now serves as senior associate athletics director and assistant vice president for development.

“I am extremely proud of what our office has accomplished while acknowledging that much still needs to be done,” Wang said in a letter to donors. During his tenure, Cal created its first named head coaching endowment although private donations sagged.

Their resignations mean that Cal Athletics will have almost complete turnover in its most visible positions this year. Football coach Sonny Dykes was fired in January, men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin resigned in March and athletic director Mike Williams announced his resignation last week. Dykes’ firing was motivated by the department’s financial situation, Williams said at the time.

Just last month, Chancellor Carol Christ’s administration released a round of budget cuts that put athletics’ big deficits in the crosshairs. A number of potential changes to the department were proposed, including cutting sports, selling alcohol at football and basketball games and converting Edwards Stadium, home of the track and field and soccer programs, into housing. 

Moreover, a prominent former Cal Athletics staffer is also leaving the campus. Solly Fulp, former deputy athletic director and current executive director of the campus’s University Partnership Program, is leaving September 1 to join Learfield, a sports media company. Last year, Learfield and Cal Athletics announced a 10-year, $100 million multimedia rights partnership, a deal in which Fulp played a non-negotiational role, according to Cal Athletics spokesperson Herb Benenson.

The University Partnership Program received national attention for a series of corporate partnerships it brokered, including an $8 million contract with Peet’s Coffee & Tea where the company provided scholarships and paid internships to campus students as a part of the deal.

Amy Gardner, director of project affairs for UPP, will serve as interim lead until a national search for a new executive director is completed, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

Austin Weinstein covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.