Rich Lyons Officially Takes Over as Cal's Chancellor

UC Berkeley's new head man has complicated issues to face regarding Golden Bears athletics
Rich Lyons
Rich Lyons / Photo courtesy f the University of California

Rich Lyons officially took over as Cal's chancellor on Monday, July 1, and while he has countless issues to address, the evolving Golden Bears' athletic department will require his attention in a number of ways that will affect the future of the program.

Here is the introductory video he provided on twitter, which, as you would expect, offers no specifics and plenty of praise-worthy ideals. He noted he is the first Cal alumnus to serve as chancellor, which presumably is a good omen for Golden Bears' sports fans.

He mentioned nothing about athletics, which is not surprising, but we will take two quotes completely out of context that are worth sharing:

"Berkeley can be a messy place."

"I am in listening mode."

Lyons also needs to be in knowledge mode when it comes the new, complicated world of college athletics that Cal is entering. Remember, it is the college presidents and chancellors who make the decisions about conference membership and expansion. And they have the final word on the status and makeup of the athletic department. I am reminded of whatthen-Washington State president Kirk Schulz said last fall, after the Pac-12 had fallen apart:

“Athletics now require more of the president’s time by far than when I started as a president. It used to be you went to your conference [meeting], you sort of interacted with the other presidents, but I would say largely you were focused around the academic mission of your particular institution. The amount of time and buy-in that you would need to take to be informed, not simply show up at the meetings, but really be informed is very different now than it was.

“I think new presidents when they start, or new chancellors, I say you’ve got to have a strategic relationship with your athletic director. You may say, ‘I don’t want to deal with sports,’ or ‘I’ll let someone else do that,’ and modern presidents cannot do that anymore. And so you have to be really informed about the business of how it all works. And I don’t mean how much you spend on lacrosse at your school. But I mean the business of ESPN, Fox, all those media partners. You can’t just show up three times a year and hope to be successful.

“So I think it has fundamentally changed, and that’s not going away. There’ll be continued reshuffling, but college presidents have to do that.”

So questions will be presented to Lyons that must be answered:

There are immediate questions:

---Will Cal have to cut some sports?

---Can Cal athletics survive in its present state in the ACC, considering the limited revenue it will receive over the next seven years?

---Will Cal seek membership in a different conference, especially with schools such as Florida State and Clemson trying to leave the ACC?

And some big-picture questions:

---Can Cal compete with the big-name football and basketball programs when colleges will be forced to pay athletes, which will be the case in the not-too-distant future?

---Will Cal eventually be forced to compete at less the highest level in revenue sports, perhaps settling into a category or division below where it now resides. In essence, in five or 10 years, will Cal still be competing for the same prizes that school like Texas, Ohio State, USC, Florida State and Alabama are chasing?

Cal running back Jaydn Ott was part of a video welcoming Lyons:

These are challenging times for a new UC Berkeley chancellor regarding athletics, and there may be no solutions that satisfy every faction.

Here is something Lyons posted recently that suggest his interest in athletics at Cal:

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Jake Curtis


Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.