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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Column: A Michael Scott column

Yes, that Michael Scott.

Already, I probably lost a couple of readers who simply don’t watch “The Office.” That’s understandable. At the same time, some might be asking what Michael Scott has to do with UC Davis sports – specifically to athletic director Greg Warzecka. There is a connection – you just have to stick around. (Disclaimer: “Office” spoiler alert!)

As many of you know, Michael Scott, played by actor Steve Carell, is the love-him-hate-him boss from the popular mockumentary about the workings of a paper distribution company in Scranton, Penn. Scott recently left Scranton for good, opting to move to Colorado to live with his fiancée Holly Flax. In reality, Carell wanted to move on from the character and decided not to renew his contract.

Scott was for the most part unpopular while at Dunder Mifflin, but will be missed now that he’s gone. The decisions Scott made as the boss might not have been the most optimal choices, but they were, in his mind, for the overall benefit of the company.

Also, for those who saw the episode in which Michael “that’s what she said” Scott leaves, it very much felt like both a season and possibly a series finale. Yet, it wasn’t.

I’m just going to say, Warzecka was UC Davis’ Michael Scott – sort of. Don’t get me wrong; Warzecka did some tremendous things as the director of athletics. During his tenure, UC Davis jumped from Division II to Division I. Aggie Stadium was constructed under Warzecka. The Aggies collected 11 Big West Conference regular season or postseason titles in the past 16 years with Warzecka at the helm.

At the same time, Warzecka has been criticized for some of his moves, or thereof. He was panned almost universally for how he managed the men’s basketball team. Warzecka stuck with Gary Stewart as the coach for too long, and his lack of action will haunt the squad for a few more years. Furthermore, his decision to hire Jim Les as Stewart’s replacement was a little rushed.

A lot of Aggie supporters – including students, alumni and boosters – are glad to see Warzecka gone. I think I partially fall into this category. Not so much because I think Warzecka has done a terrible job, but more so because I think it’s time the athletic department gets shaken up.

Aside from a select number of programs (football, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf and women’s tennis), UC Davis teams haven’t drastically improved since the jump to Division I. How much of that falls onto Warzecka is relatively unknown – it depends on what the ultimate goal of UC Davis athletics is; is it to win, or is it to make a profit?

Both Scott and Warzecka left their respective posts in similar ways. Both were relatively unpopular while in office, but were missed once they left. Warzecka will keep his post until his contract expires on June 30, so we won’t really determine how much he will be missed until then. But I have a gut feeling that those who currently like Warzecka leaving won’t necessarily feel the same way when he’s gone.

When Scott left, it felt like the end of a season, or even a series. Warzecka’s announcement feels like the end of a season as well. This set of news seems to cap off a whirlwind year of UC Davis sports.

I guess you could say it started with the four sports getting cut last fall. The football team accepting the invitation to join the Big Sky conference in two seasons followed that. Sandy Simpson announcing his retirement as women’s basketball coach and the team had an incredible run through the Big West and into the NCAA Tournament.

But not all stories are happy ones. Obviously there are the sports cuts, but also the men’s basketball team’s continued struggles, culminating with Gary Stewart stepping down as coach.

Warzecka leaving seems to put a bow on top of an exciting year of UC Davis sports. However like “The Office” without Scott, the show must go on for UC Davis athletics.

JASON ALPERT would really like to hear everyone’s opinion of Warzecka stepping down. E-mail him at sports@theaggie.org.

1 COMMENT

  1. The program evolved during Warzecka’s 16 year run, but it was becoming increasingly clear that a change was needed. Clearly allowing a potential revenue sport such as men’s basketball wither for so long was a major problem. This was an issue where the school needed a dynamic and forceful leader, instead Warzecka let the problem fester only to meekly “mutually agree” with Stewart to move in another direction. Obviously UCD is not going to contend for national championships in all sports every year, but they should be able to be competitive. By allowing the sputtering basketball program to unravel was a major problem. Hopefully the new AD will be a Divsion 1 guy with strong business/marketing and communication skills. He will also need to be comfortable getting his hands dirty and making tough decisions for the betterment of the program. Perhaps he could look at the men’s tennis program which finished the year at 5-13 and has not had a winning record in a least a decade.

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