Men's gymnastics program to continue at Cal

39811.jpg

Men's gymnastics program to continue at Cal

May 2, 2011

BERKELEY -- As a result of fundraising efforts that have raised in excess of 2.5 million, the mens gymnastics program at the University of California, Berkeley, will be preserved as an Intercollegiate Athletics sport, campus officials announced Monday.
RELATED: It's official -- Cal baseball will return for 2011-12
The total, though short of the 4 million necessary to fund the teams current direct and indirect costs, will support the program for at least 7-10 years in combination with steps to reduce annual operating expenses. Specifically, until the ultimate fundraising goal is met, mens gymnastics will be limited in its ability to provide financial aid to future student-athletes. For the time being, scholarship commitments will be offered at present levels only to returning student-athletes, while athletic scholarship aid for new recruits, an essential element to sustain a program that has consistently ranked among the top five in the country, will be restricted until funding is in place.While Cal Athletics and the mens gymnastics community of supporters, coaches and student-athletes understand that this new scholarship model is far from ideal, the decision to allow the team to continue removes the broader uncertainty regarding the programs future. As additional money is raised toward the 4 million objective, scholarships will be incrementally increased as possible.We recognize the importance of providing stability for mens gymnastics at this important juncture and are reinstating the program under the conditions that are supported by current financial resources, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said. Once again, I want to thank our donors for their unprecedented response during these challenging economic times. Not only are we able to maintain our full complement of intercollegiate athletic programs, but we are also able to remain on our path to reduce annual support to Intercollegiate Athletics to 5 million by 2014.Several factors led to making the announcement today in advance of reaching the 4 million fundraising goal. Most importantly, any delay would have a significant detrimental effect on the ability of the mens gymnastics program to compete in both the near and medium term.With the 2011 season complete and the spring semester nearing its end, current student-athletes have already begun visiting other schools to consider transferring. In addition, Cals coaching staff will be able to participate in the final recruiting cycle for the 2011-12 year that starts at the end of this week.Under the director of first-year head coach Tim McNeill, named the 2011 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year, the Golden Bears placed fourth at the NCAA Championships April 15. Overall, Cal has finished among the top five nationally 20 times since 1959, winning NCAA titles in 1968, 75, 97 and 98.Words cannot even begin to express how happy I am that the Cal mens gymnastics team has been reinstated, McNeill said. Im so thankful for the outpouring of support we received, from Cals athletic department, the Chancellor, our incredible alumni and the team members parents who worked around the clock to make this happen. This result would not have been possible if not for the current teams never-give-up attitude. They held their heads high all year and have not only inspired me, but the entire gymnastics community. This last year was our 99th season, and Im absolutely elated that we will be here to see our 100th season and beyond.Since UC Berkeley announced last September that four sports baseball, mens gymnastics, womens gymnastics and womens lacrosse would be eliminated and rugby assigned to a newly created tier at the end of the 2010-11 academic year, donors have pledged more than 20 million to allow for the preservation of all five programs at the Intercollegiate Athletics level. These substantial commitments, in combination with expected ongoing fundraising efforts, will fully support the costs, both direct and indirect, of each team and enable Cal Athletics to remain on its path to financial sustainability and honor the campuss decision to cap institutional support for athletics at 5 million a year by 2014.We have much to be appreciative for and I couldnt be happier for member of our mens gymnastics program, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. Our community has made its passion for our athletic programs abundantly clear for all to see. Throughout this challenging year, our teams and our student-athletes have performed at a level that rivals the best in our history. To say that Cal Athletics, together with our community, has risen to the challenge is indeed an understatement.We are absolutely thrilled that the Chancellor has given the mens gymnastics team the opportunity to continue its 99-year tradition of excellence, said Neil Popovic, a Cal gymnast from 1979-83 and one of the leaders of the mens gymnastics fundraising effort.This decision means the amazing young scholar-athletes on the team can recognize their dream of competing at the highest level of mens gymnastics and pursuing a world-class education at Cal.Many, manypeople contributed to this effort, and they should all be proud, as should Chancellor Birgeneau, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and the entire Cal sports community.What a great team effort!

Courtesy Cal media services

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

OAKLAND -- For the first time since he joined the coaching staff last summer, Mike Brown on Wednesday morning arrived at the Warriors facility a man in charge.

As acting head coach, he would decide when practice started and when it ended, and conduct proceedings in between.

The general activity was not much different for anyone else, though, as it continues to become evident that everything the Warriors do for the foreseeable future will be a Brown-Kerr, or Kerr-Brown, production.

“Steve is going to be a part of this process the whole time,” Brown said after practice. “Almost before I do anything, I’m going to consult with him. The only time I won’t consult with him is probably during a game.”

Since Kerr’s announcement last Sunday that he was taking an indefinite leave to attend to personal health issues, Brown has been wielding the clipboard. He actually coached Game 3 against Portland last Saturday, in Kerr’s absence, before knowing in advance he’d also coach Game 4 Monday night.

Brown is 2-0, with the Game 4 win clinching a Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers. Yet Brown is quick to remind anyone that he is following the plan laid out by Kerr. The two exchanged texts Tuesday and, according to Brown, “spoke at length” after the game between the Jazz and the Clippers -- one of which will face the Warriors in the next round.

Though the Warriors are operating under a different head coach, all indications are the atmosphere around the team remains stable and relatively unchanged.

“Obviously it’s different personalities, but when you make it about the players, when you make it about winning, all that other stuff really doesn’t matter,” Kevin Durant said. “He coaches us. He coaches the game of basketball and he does it very well. Our whole coaching staff does the same thing.

“When it’s about basketball, it’s not about trying to have authority over us. He’s just coaching us. He’s just coaching us up. He’s just telling us the proper way to do things on the basketball court. It’s pretty simple when you try to do that. Then it’s on us to try to execute.”

Execution has gone well, particularly over the last six quarters of the series against Portland. The Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 3, and then rolled to a 35-9 start in Game 4 before coasting to the closeout victory.

Brown was on the sideline in Game 4, with Kerr watching the game from the locker room.

It’s fairly apparent, though, that everyone involved feels a heightened sense of accountability and ownership.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach. And the coaching staff is just so smart, and they empower each other.

“Anybody, if you’re around us on a day-to-day basis, anybody can tell that they work well as a group. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players.”