Photo by Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cal Athletics Announces Strategic Plan

August 22, 2019

It has been about 18 months in the making, but today (August 22), Cal Athletics revealed its first-in-recent-history strategic plan

“A well-conceived and thought-out plan is essential for our success, providing clear direction for our department and a framework for the months and years ahead,” Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said in a release from the school announcing the strategic plan. “Through a comprehensive approach, I believe we have a document that will allow us to unify our efforts. This plan sets a course of action through seven distinct priorities, and we will use it to guide our decision-making through short-term and long-term goals to allow us to take organized and deliberate steps forward.”

The plan, which has a mission statement of “To Educate, Compete, Serve and Excel … Developing Leaders of Tomorrow,” is segmented into seven priorities including the student-athlete experience, academic success, competitive success, financial resources, department culture, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and campus integration. Reports from inside the athletic department have been generally positive towards the plan, especially with those involved in football and basketball recruiting.

The genesis of the plan goes back to before Knowlton was named athletic director in April of 2018 and included the help of Collegiate Sports Associates (CSA) — an executive search and consulting firm focusing on Division 1 athletics. The university chancellor-commissioned CSA report was completed and given to the athletics department a little more than a year ago and included input from alumni, faculty, staff, student-athletes, coaches, and members of the Berkeley community. According to the school, over the past six months, 85 coaches and staff members within the athletics department have volunteered time to serve on committees formed for the creation of the strategic plan.

“We want to ensure that student-athletes at Cal have every opportunity to thrive in the classroom, on the field of play and in the course of their professional lives as alumni,” Chancellor Carol Christ also said in the release. “We want to have a world-class program with a responsible, sustainable financial model supported by philanthropy, innovative revenue generation and diligent fiscal management. We want to have an environment where every student-athlete, coach and staff member feels a sense of belonging because they are supported, respected and welcome at Cal Athletics and across the campus. We are confident that the new strategic plan provides the necessary framework and foundation for the program to achieve all of these goals.”

Within the seven categories are more specific goals and objectives. For example, the overarching goal of the student-athlete experience category is to “provide an exceptional student-athlete experience by dedicating resources and support to all Golden Bears.” To do that, the plan outlines three objectives. First, is creating a plan to help student-athletes thrive in all aspects of life including personal growth, career development, and community engagement. It also includes providing “optimal facilities” for athletic growth, success, and development as well as providing resources for mental, physical, and emotional health.

For academic success, the report focuses on adding support and resources to help student-athletes transition into college, thrive in college, and then transition out of college. Competitive success is defined as regularly competing for championships in all sports and includes attracting and retaining top coaches and bringing in top student-athletes. Financial resources are exactly what they sound like — building and diversifying revenue streams. Next, the plan outlines ways in which the athletics department will build a strong and unique culture, create a diverse and inclusive environment, and bridge a connection to the rest of the Cal campus.

The competitive success portion of the plan was driven by a committee made up primarily of sitting Cal coaches and was chaired by Assoc AD for Football, Andrew McGraw.  The coaches shared best practices they had viewed inside other programs to create a program that will have a lasting impact on recruiting and overall competitive success.  New Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Fox was involved and the final plan has the ringing endorsement of both Coach Fox and Coach Wilcox.

While a strategic plan of this detail isn’t necessarily common for Division 1 athletics programs, it’s not unheard of. Duke University launched its own 10-year program in 2008. The University of South Florida announced a five-year strategic plan in 2016. And the University of Wyoming created one just last year. 

According to school officials, Cal’s strategic plan goes into details that include action items for individual members in the athletics department and will be tracked quarterly.

“Aspirations are high, as they should be at the University of California, Berkeley,” Knowlton said in his letter within the strategic plan document. “We now have an obligation to take the steps necessary to implement what we have created and a responsibility to use it to its full potential.”

Read the entire strategic plan here.

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