The Dempsey Report came under criticism on Wednesday at the second town hall meeting to discuss the hiring of a new Athletic Director (AD). A group made up largely of UC Davis faculty and parents of student-athletes expressed their concerns about the future of UC Davis athletics.
The evening began with Cedric Dempsey, the head of the firm that created the Dempsey Report, giving a brief explanation of his background and talking about his thoughts regarding the future of UC Davis.
Dempsey stressed the fact that his report was not meant to make recommendations — rather he asserted it was intended to provide options to the university. While the Dempsey Report presents a path for UC Davis to move away from its current “educational model” toward a “business model”. Dempsey’s personal view may have been surprising to some.
“I am a strong advocate of a losing cause at the Division I level; that is, I am a strong advocate of the educational model,” he said.
Dempsey also commended UC Davis for its transparency with regard to the AD search.
“Of the 45 schools I have provided reports for,” Dempsey said, “this is the first campus that has allowed for open forums to discuss the results. This is the most transparent process I have worked with.”
Almost as soon a Dempsey stepped away from the podium, the criticism of his report began.
Of the 10 speakers at the open forum, nine spoke out against the reforms proposed by the Dempsey Report. The anti-Dempsey speakers were largely parents of student-athletes and UC Davis faculty.
The speakers echoed the sentiments expressed in the first town hall meeting, voicing frustration about potential revision of the eight core principles and citing data from NCAA reports suggesting that changes in spending do not necessarily correlate to wins and losses.
“[The eight core principles] were not thrown together to be simply trashed,” said professor of nutrition Louis Grivetti, a member of the committee that drafted the Eight Core Principles back in 2003. “We created the principles because we wanted to ensure that UC Davis did not start down a slippery slope of infractions that some might call ‘no big deal.’”
Other speakers spoke of student involvement, and expressed frustration over the perceived lack of student participation.
“UC Davis students are the single biggest donor this university will ever know,” said Paul Medved, alumnus, donor and parent of a former student-athlete. “The administration is hoping like hell that [the students] stay really busy. Too busy to inform themselves of the facts and truths that would lead them to conclude that they are not receiving the services they have contracted with this university.”
Other speakers went so far as to call the current situation “grand theft athletics” and to suggest that UC Davis cut football before considering dropping other sports.
The lone pro-Dempsey speaker of the evening was UC Davis alumnus Kai Ruess.
“UC Davis has not reached its potential,” Ruess said. “Alumni don’t come back to Davis for games, and the reason is two-fold: First due to the product put on the field, and second due to the lack of marketing.
“Whether it’s good or bad, athletics is the representation of UC Davis to the outside world … We should take a course that is forward-looking, rather than stagnant, and we should try to invest in wise ways so that our Athletics Department can become more competitive.”
Ruess is also an organizing member of “Aggies for Excellence,” a group promoting UC Davis’ move to a higher level of athletic competition, as is suggested in the Dempsey Report. According to the group’s website, aggiesforexcellence.com, one of their goals is to “organize an immediate campaign to convince the Chancellor to hire an Athletics Director that is willing and able to embrace the spirit of the [Dempsey Report] without sacrificing UC Davis’ academic integrity.”
According to an organizing member, “the group has been spearheaded by multiple alumni, including several former ASUCD Presidents and Vice Presidents, and multiple former Aggie Pack MCs.”
As of Sunday, 179 people have registered through the group’s website and the group’s Facebook page has received 269 “likes.”
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Fred Wood and the panel charged with advising Chancellor Linda Katehi on hiring a new AD will continue discussing the opinions heard at the meeting over the next several weeks.
According to Wood, the 14-member panel which includes faculty, donors and students meets approximately once every two weeks, and while UC Davis has begun receiving applications for potential suitors, Wood insists the panel is not focusing on particular applicants yet.
“Cedric [Dempsey] is receiving applications, but I have specifically instructed him not to forward them to me,” Wood said. “I don’t think we can begin to look at applications until we have direction as to where our future in athletics is going.”
Katehi has also extended the period for collecting comments to Nov. 30, in order to accommodate two additional town hall meetings.
With the additional time, Wood has revised his timetable for the hiring of a new AD, estimating that Katehi will make her decision in late spring or early fall, rather than by the end of 2011 as he had stated at the previous town hall meeting.
An ASUCD sponsored town hall meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in ARC Ballroom A. That will be followed by the final scheduled town hall meeting on Nov. 15.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.