Two major Bay Area universities have women as athletic directors, but their respective paths so far have been vastly different.
At Cal, Sandy Barbour has ingratiated herself with alumni with her sure-footed handling of problems. After she hired Mike Montgomery to replace Ben Braun as men’s basketball coach, some alums hailed her as the best AD in the school’s history.
At USF, after Debra Gore-Mann made a mess of the firing of men’s basketball coach Jessie Evans, more than 100 boosters sent a letter to university trustees in late February that sharply criticized her, not just for the firing, but for her dissembling in claiming Evans had asked for a leave of absence in the middle of the 2007-08 season.
Barbour’s way was smoothed by her predecessor, Steve Gladstone. When Gladstone was named AD, he inherited a slipshod business operation from John Kasser and also an NCAA probation because of code violations in men’s basketball and football. He put the department on a businesslike footing and hired Dan Coonan, who has since become athletic director at Santa Clara, to make certain Cal adhered strictly to NCAA regulations.
Barbour’s first big move was to renegotiate the contract of football coach Jeff Tedford, giving him a big raise. She hired Joanne Boyle as women’s basketball coach and Boyle has revitalized that program. Men’s basketball was a stickier proposition because Braun had the backing of influential alumni, but she kept talking to them until they backed her firing of Braun and the subsequent hiring of Montgomery.
At USF, Gore-Mann assumed responsibility in 2006 for a men’s basketball program with a glorious history, including back-to-back NCAA titles in the mid-’50s, but also one with a cloud over its head.
Two NCAA penaltiesfor code violations and the Quintin Dailey case, when the All-America guard was accused of raping a coed (he eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated assault) had led the Rev. John Lo Schiavo, president of the school, to shut down the program in 1982. The program was shut down for three years and has never recovered its one-time prominence.
In May 2004, then-athletic director Bill Hogan hired Evans, who took the Dons to the second round of the NIT in his first season. But, that was the high point.
On Dec. 26, Gore-Mann announced that Evans was taking a leave of absence, with 71-year-old Eddie Sutton replacing him. In fact, that was her decision, not Evans’. Since then, there has been a flurry of counter- accusations and Evans is now suing the university.
At Cal, a huge fundraising project looms, building an athletic facility and classrooms for the Haas Business School while retrofitting and upgrading Memorial Stadium. The project has been held up by a lawsuit regarding the university’s contention that the new building will not be on the Hayward Fault line. The deadline for that ruling is June 18 and, off the record, I have been assured it will go in the university’s favor.
At USF, it’s personal, as Gore-Mann must mend fences with alums. The hiring of Rex Walters as men’s basketball coach was a big step in the right direction.
What will the future bring? My guess is that Barbour will continue her success at Cal, but Gore-Mann’s personality and decision-making will continue to grate on USF alumni. I’d bet there will be a new AD at USF before there will be another coach.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.