BERKELEY — California announced a change in leadership in the athletic program on Friday, signaling the end of a 10-year run by athletic director Sandy Barbour that featured great success in non-revenue sports as well as recent struggles on and off the field for the high-profile football team.
Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said the department needed a “fresh perspective” and said former Cal wrestler Michael Williams will take over as interim AD while the school seeks a full-time replacement for Barbour.
Barbour arrived in 2004 and oversaw 19 team national championships, 92 titles in individual events, a Pac-10 co-championship in football, the first men’s basketball conference title in 50 years and the first Final Four trip for the women’s basketball team.
“When you have the privilege to do something like this, you think you can do it forever, you want to do it forever,” Barbour said. “There comes a time when there’s an intersection of both organizational and personal that just says it’s time to find out what’s next.”
Barbour raised the expectations of the entire program, setting goals of national and conference championships and Final Four trips that often were not part of the culture at Cal.
The school placed in the top 10 of the Directors’ Cup six times in her tenure, including a high of third place in 2010-11.
“She shaped a winning culture at Cal, while using her platform to promote athletics done with integrity,” women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Sandy ran a ‘big time’ athletics program, while still genuinely caring about each student-athlete wearing blue and gold. She is one of the smartest people in college sports, and all of us at Cal benefited from her vision and leadership.”
Barbour also oversaw the construction of a new football facility and a major renovation to Memorial Stadium and made strong hires to bring on Mike Montgomery as men’s basketball coach in 2008 and Gottlieb as women’s basketball coach in 2011.
Montgomery retired after this past season and was replaced by Cuonzo Martin, who led Tennessee to the regional semifinals in the NCAA tournament in 2014.
But Barbour’s tenure was not without its troubles. The football team struggled in coach Jeff Tedford’s final years at the school and he was fired after going 3-9 in 2012. Barbour hired Sonny Dykes as his replacement and the Golden Bears went 1-11 in his first season, failing to beat a single FBS team.
Dykes said Barbour did a tremendous job as Cal AD.
“The impact she made during her tenure will have a positive and lasting effect on all of our sport programs well into the future,” he said in a statement.
Cal also had the lowest graduation rate for football players among major conference teams, according to data released by the NCAA last fall. The program has shown significant improvement of late in its academic performance after Barbour put more emphasis on academic support.
“I’m satisfied that tremendous efforts have been made to address these issues here at Cal,” Dirks said.
Dirks said that after several discussions with Barbour the two decided this was the right time for a change in leadership.
“Being the director of athletics at a high-profile place like Berkeley is an extraordinary challenge; even in the best of times people in these positions face constant scrutiny, and that can be draining,” Dirks said. “Given the challenges and opportunities that lie before us, we believe our university will benefit from leadership that can provide new energy and a fresh perspective.’
Williams was a collegiate wrestler at Cal and graduated in 1982 with a degree in economics. He worked for Barclays Global Investors for more than 16 years before retiring in 2009. He currently serves as vice chair of the UC Berkeley Foundation and is a past chair of the foundation’s Campaign Steering Committee.
Williams was also a member of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Academics and Athletics, which will issue a report later this summer. Williams will not be a candidate for the full-time job.
Barbour will remain at Cal and set up an academic program in sports management on campus.