Interim AD Talks About Cal's Future

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Editor's Note: This is the second half of a two-part interview with Cal associate athletic director Robert Driscoll. Driscoll will take over as interim athletic director next month when Athletic Director John Kasser leaves Cal to start a new job with Pac-10 Properties. Driscoll is a candidate for the permanent athletic director position, and Daily Cal Sports Editor Matt Duffy sat down with him this week to discuss his future at Cal, as well as his 14 years of experience with the athletic department.

Daily Californian: How has the athletic department matured over the years you've been here and what trends have you seen in collegiate athletics?

Robert Driscoll: I think it's matured in that we've merged men's athletics, women's athletics and recreational sports. We really took three different cultures and put them together. After going through some difficult times in the direction of the program, I think we've really come together as a really tight group with a clear vision of where we're going. I think we're no longer a kind of mom-and-pop organization. It's a business as well. Our budget is about $25 million and so we've become much more efficient in terms of how we market and promote. Our corporate sponsors, our media relations, all those things have really grown. And I think we've really grown in the quality of people that we've hired. All you have to do is look at the Ben Brauns and the Jack Clarks of the world, at the qualities Coach Holmoe brings. All these people are bright, hard-working. They represent Cal really in a first-class manner. I'm not convinced we always had that here. We had coaches that used it as stepping stones and didn't really understand the academic environment. One of the major issues facing college athletics today is funding. With gender equity, with the costs escalating constantly, you really have to understand your resources. You have to be much more entrepreneurial in an environment that's really not designed to be entrepreneurial. You have to balance all of those issues. At a Division I institution you're also major entertainment to the local community so you're in competition with all the professional sports teams. Those are real challenges - how to come up with enough resources to be successful.

DC: What are some of the projects the athletic department is going to be tackling over the next decade?

RD: My goal, if I receive this position permanently, will be to set a 10-year vision for the department and decide what we're going to be and how we're going to get there. We developed a mission statement about 10 years ago that wanted excellence in all sports and I think we've done that. But the reality of it is that we don't have the resources to win national championships across the board, so we need to determine as an institution where we want to put our resources and what sports we really want to focus on. Obviously (Haas Pavilion) has been instrumental in our recruiting. If you look at next year's recruiting class in basketball, it's one of the top in the nation. I'm convinced that this facility is a commitment to where we're going. We really need to do something with our football stadium for seismic reasons to keep it safe for our patrons. But in addition to that, we need to upgrade the scoreboard, the videos, the concession stands. Because if you look around the Pac-10 in what our competitors have done, the Oregons, the Oregon States - a lot of the reason they're successful is they've invested in their infrastructure. Hiring and keeping the best coaches for the long term is also important. We can't afford to let other schools come along and cherry-pick our best people. We have to pay them well, we have to take care of them in a lot of different ways, make sure that they continue to grow and are challenged.

DC: How large of a project is the Memorial Stadium renovation going to be? Dollar-wise is it going to be the largest project ever done in athletics?

RD: Perhaps once it's finally completed. We're looking at it in a four-phase approach. The most immediate need is to do the seismic upgrade of the shear walls in there. We're going to have to go out and fund raise those dollars. Now people don't want to give dollars just to put some shear walls in the stadium, so the first phase would take care of, hopefully, the west side of the facility from about the 20-yard line to 20-yard line. We have to take that scoreboard down, because it's not seismically safe, and put one in that is. We have to redo the bathrooms and the seating on that side. Our goal in that is to kick that off in 2002 or 2003. We need to fund-raise 80 percent of those first phase dollars before we can move ahead with the project. Estimates can range anywhere from $35-50 million to do the first phase. That would be the most expensive phase. The second phase would take care of the north end of the facility, the third phase actually goes around the east side and the the fourth phase would be the entry way and all the trees and shrubbery. It's a four-phase project but really what's driving it is the seismic and safety issues.

DC: Would any of the construction disrupt a football season?

RD: That's a good question. We're hoping that it won't. We've talked to some folks that said we can shut down the west side of the stadium and use from end zone to the east side and put some bleachers in on that side. But they also said that about (Haas) and we had to be out of there for a couple of years. But we're not close enough (in our plans) with the construction people to know what that impact would be.

DC: How is the selection process going to work for the athletic director and when do you anticipate an announcement of John Kasser's successor?

RD: My understanding is that they have almost completed putting together their selection committee. I know that they have already advertised for the job. My impression is that they want to move quickly. What does that mean? It could take anywhere from two-three months. Sometimes these searches go on for six months, but I know that that's not the intent here at Cal. It will be a very high sought after job. I'm anticipating that it will go fairly quickly.

DC: What happens if you don't get the job?

RD: I haven't even thought about that. I'm so convinced that I'd do a great job here, the only thing I can do is work as hard as I can with the goal of getting the job because in my heart I believe I'm the right and the best person for the job. If I don't get the job I'll deal with that process when it happens. Now I'm at a stage in my career where I've been offered other positions as athletic director at some pretty good schools, not at Cal, which has been my dream. But I would have to think seriously at looking at other opportunities just because I'm ready to be an athletic director and at some point you have to be willing to jump out of the boat. But I'll cross that bridge when it comes, that's something I'm really not worried about because either way I'll keep on.


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