Setencich Signs Two-Year Deal

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While the unexpected resignation of Cal Athletic Director John Kasser may have sent shockwaves through the athletic administration yesterday, it was the Bears' much-berated football program that came out of Thursday's press conference relatively unscathed.

In fact, the prospects for the Cal football team took a leap forward after some major announcements yesterday:

  • University officials said that current projects to renovate Memorial Stadium will continue as planned, even in the midst of the search for a new athletic director.
  • UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl affirmed that Kasser's successor must keep Tom Holmoe as head coach for the upcoming season.
  • Defensive Coordinator Lyle Setencich was given a two-year contract extension to assure that Setencich, who has built Cal's defense into one of the best in the Pac-10, will remain at Cal until 2002.
  • Current director of athletic administration Robert Driscoll, who will become Cal's interim athletic director when Kasser's resignation becomes effective at the end of the month, said that the department presented a three-phase renovation project to Berdahl last week.

    The first phase of the plan includes the retrofitting of the stadium's west side and the installation of a new press box. According to Driscoll, the cost for this portion would be between $30-40 million.

    Contrary to reports that the university would be unable to fund such a large-scale project - Driscoll estimated that the bill could top $80 million - both he and Kasser reaffirmed that there has been more interest in the stadium project than in the renovation of Haas Pavilion.

    "We've talked to a lot of people," Driscoll said. "We don't have significant dollars in the pot, but we have significant commitments."

    Meanwhile, the Bears also took a step toward solidifying the success of the football team's future on the field by locking up the highly-regarded Setencich.

    Setencich's new contract will keep him side-by-side with Holmoe until at least 2002. Holmoe signed his own extension earlier this year, adding one season onto the five-year contract he inked in 1997.

    "You ask kids here to have a work ethic, responsibility and loyalty - all the sayings to build character," Setencich said. "I probably would leave if I didn't think we had the opportunity to improve. (But) we're very close to being very good."

    Setencich first joined the Bears after the 1996 season, when Cal gained the dubious distinction of being the worst defensive team in the Pac-10.

    After steadily improving during the next two seasons, Setencich's unit completed the turn-around in 1999, when it ranked No. 1 in the league in total defense.

    Although Setencich said he had previously considered leaving the Bears for a more successful program, the extension eliminates any possibility of the coach bolting within the next few years.

    "I think about (the other offers) and I'd be dishonest if I said I haven't," Setencich said. "But could I look up on the other side of the field and look into the eyes of Scott Fujita, Matt Nixon, Nnamdi Asomugha and Tully Banta-Cain and coach against them? I don't think I can do that."

    The coach's attitude and commitment to the Cal program is returned by his players.

    Said senior cornerback Chidi Iwuoma, who has been under Setencich's tutelage for the past four years, "That just shows that the coaches are committed to staying and toughing it out like we are. Even though the record might not reflect it, the program has continued to grow."

    In the end, however, it may be Cal's success that causes the Bears to lose the services of some of its coaches. Setencich admitted that leaving the program could become a possibility if Cal was able to turn the corner.

    "(The defensive coaches) would like to finish in a situation in which we were set to walk into the locker room and say 'We're going to a bowl game,'" Setencich said. "If maybe that happened, then we could walk away."

    As for the Kasser's resignation, Setencich said he was "very sad" to see him go.

    "People like walking through the door with John Kasser as the athletic director - People like walking through the door when Tom Holmoe is the head football coach," he added.


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