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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Column: From the top

Change is looming over UC Davis athletics, and a variety of paths the University could choose to take.

Last week Chancellor Linda PB Katehi and Vice Chancellor Fred Wood announced the four finalists for UC Davis’ new Director of Athletics.

The candidates vary greatly in experience and outlook.

They feature experience in large and small schools, private schools and public schools, schools with massive budgets and schools that have had to take serious budget cuts.

Now UC Davis has to pick just one, and whatever decision is ultimately made could drastically change the future of UC Davis athletics for over a decade.

Over the next few weeks the candidates will be hosting open forums to answer questions from the public — after which the University will accept feedback. This is a chance for the students of UC Davis to make their voices heard and you should all take full advantage.

During the fall the Recruitment Advisory Committee (the group tasked with helping cut down the list of candidates) held four town-hall meetings that were intended to facilitate feedback. While the meetings were highly opinionated and did indeed opened the floor to all comers, one group was largely under-represented at the meetings: the student body.

The speakers at the town-hall meetings came almost exclusively from three groups: alumni, faculty and student athletes, but the general student body was nowhere to be found.

The upcoming decision will have untold effects on the UC Davis athletics department and any student who has an opinion regarding the current state of Aggie athletics should do their part to make their voice heard.

After all, UC Davis athletics are funded primarily by student fees, which means that, if given the opportunity, students should be more than willing to give their opinion.

Of course you will be able to follow the latest updates from the athletics director search in The California Aggie and on our twitter page, but before the meetings start, here are some basic strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

Ray Purpur — Strengths: Purpur has solid experience with several years as Deputy Director of Athletics at Stanford which gave him a chance to work at not only an academically prestigious institution, but one with a wide array of sports programs, similar to the UC Davis Athletics Department.

Weaknesses: While Stanford has an impressive athletics department, it is also very well funded. This means that Purpur does not have experience working with the type of cramped budget that he would face as Athletic Director at UC Davis.

Desiree Reed-Francois — Strengths: As Senior Associate Athletics Director at Tennessee, Reed-Francois has experience working at a state institution  with high profile athletics. She also has experience academically, serving as a law professor.

Weaknesses: Lacks experience in a program of the academic caliber seen at UC Davis as well as the local markets in Northern California.

Terrance Tumey — Strengths: Tumey has served at Dominican University of California during the difficult transition from NAIA to a Division II program. Additionally, he has extensive experience in the sport of football — as a former member of several NFL organizations including the San Francisco 49ers. This experience could help him select UC Davis next head football coach — the first major decision the incoming AD will make.

Weaknesses: Tumey’s background is highly football-centric which could cause problems as he enters a university with 23 athletics programs.

Foti Millis — Strengths: Millis has solid experience at University of California, Berkeley, during a time where Cal has faced similar budget constraints to the ones he’d encounter at UC Davis. Additionally, Millis is a UC Davis alumnus, which should get him some added points from some of the other alumni.

Weaknesses: Cal came close to permanently cutting sports during Millis’ tenure, which will likely make some in and around the athletic department uneasy, especially following the sports-cutting debate sparked by the Dempsey Report.

TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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