With the unexpected announcement of Terry Tumey leaving his position as athletics director, an interim director needed to be installed in a short span of time. That interim is Teresa Gould, currently the chief revenue officer of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and a well-qualified individual versed in all matters of collegiate sports. The Aggie was able to sit down with Gould and discuss what led her to this position as well as her goals for the future of the Athletics Department.
You grew up in Iowa and you received a journalism degree … what led you to make the transition from Iowa to California?
I made a couple stops before I got to California, working in college athletics. Especially early on until you’ve kind of paid your dues and put in your time, I was always kind of told that you’ve got to go where the opportunities are. I would have loved to have spent my entire career in Iowa. To be honest, I love it there and that’s where most of my family is, but that wasn’t realistic in terms of professional development and advancement opportunities in college athletics. So I initially came to California literally 20 years ago to be the senior associate commissioner at the West Coast Conference, a small Division I conference — it’s the conference where Gonzaga is in. Their conference office is located just outside of San Francisco, so I initially came for that job.
How will your time at Cal help you with this new job as Athletic Director?
I think it will help me a lot. I was fortunate enough to work for two different athletics directors during my time there, both of whom are phenomenal [and] very different: one of them came from a coaching background, and the other – Sandy Barbour, who is now the Athletic Director at Penn State – came up through the ranks as an administrator, so I learned from two of the best. So I feel prepared, having worked with them beside my side. They both mentored me and provided me with a lot of opportunities to do a lot of things.
One of the running jokes is that during my time at Cal, I literally did every job. Every single head coach reported to me at some point, other than football. I oversaw sports medicine, strength and conditioning, compliance, student services, development, media relations, you name it. I was there so long that I kind of did everything, and so I feel like it prepared me well, because whether you’re the interim or the permanent, you really want somebody in this chair that knows what Mike [Robles, assistant athletic director, athletics communications] does. You want somebody that actually knows what that job entails, and that has done that work. So I think that has served me really well.
I would also say that there are similarities between Berkeley and UC Davis, from the perspective [that] they are both world-class academic institutions and I think that when you’re in a rigorous academic environment and when you’re an internationally renowned public institution like UC Davis is, athletics has a place on the campus that sometimes looks different than what it would if you were at an institution that didn’t have the same kind of academic rigor. So I think that that experience at Cal prepared me really well on a lot of different fronts. Honestly, I feel really fortunate. I worked with some of the best coaches in the world. Just the last Olympics, I think two of my head coaches were head Olympic coaches, so I feel like I’ve been around college athletics, working with some of the brightest and best in the industry, both as administrators and as coaches, and I think it’s put me in a good position to come in on a temporary basis and help make us even better than we are here now.
Are there any new or unique challenges that come with this particular job here at Davis?
Honestly, I think part of the new and unique challenge is the fact that I’m the interim. One of the things on a daily basis that I wrestle with is that I know what I’ve been charged with doing, and I’ve been charged with coming in here and taking an inventory of where we are, what we are doing really well, where can we get better, how [we can move] the dial forward and provide our student-athletes with the best possible conditions we can to support their success. I know that’s my charge.
When you’re the interim and not the permanent person, and you know you’re not going to be the permanent person, there’s a little bit of “what do you bite off first.” What do you take on first? That’s what keeps me up every night; there is so much here that I want to do, and I have so much vision to help this department become even better than it already is. It’s like, how do I prioritize my time to make the greatest impact, and I was really honest with the Chancellor in that I didn’t want to come in here and just keep the boat afloat. I really wanted to come in here and move things forward and help push it along. That’s part of the inherent challenges of this role. As the interim, you have to gauge how much change … you really want to influence in a short period of time.
So why don’t you want to pursue a full-time position?
I think at this point in my life – I mean, I walked away from a hugely successful 25-year career that I enjoyed and loved, and am very proud of – when I made the decision to leave UC Berkeley and accept the job at the [Cal Aggie] Alumni Association and relocate from the Bay Area after more than 20 years, it was really a personal decision, and a personal decision focused on my family and quality of life. Being part of this campus community in a different way, as you can imagine, there are some inherent nuances with being married to a head football coach, and I just think it is in the best interest of my family, this department and candidly the university to have somebody else be in this chair.
That being said, I will be around and will help. The Chancellor and I have talked a lot about this. I’m not going away, I’m still going to be on this campus, I’m still going to be part of this community and part of this family. My expertise won’t be lost; we’ll just use it in a different way. I really do think that’s best not just for me, but for this department.
You mentioned potential difficulties with a husband as a head football coach. Is there a potential conflict of interest there?
I think that the model we have put together in this interim role avoids that. We have a sports supervisor – Josh Flushman, who is very capable – as an associate athletic director that will be the decision maker for football. He has the direct reporting line for those responsibilities to the Chancellor. We have a lot of involvement and a lot of support from Scott Carrell, our faculty athletic rep. I think the model during the interim period will be very effective. It’s not the ideal long term.
You want your athletics director to have a huge level of involvement and a huge amount of influence over a sport that has the largest number of student-athletes, probably of any in the department, one that has a tremendous amount of influence over our success, and a sport that this community cares very deeply about. For the athletics director to have to separate himself or herself from that, in the long term is not in the best interest of the department. We’ll make it work for now, but I don’t think it’s something long-term that puts anybody in a position to have the kind of success that we want.
How long do you think the search for the new athletics director will take?
That’s a good question. I think in talking to the Chancellor there’s definitely a sense of urgency while at the same time she’s committed to doing it right. And what I mean by that is she’s been really consistent in saying that she doesn’t want to commit to a timeline until she gets the appropriate feedback from the right people in Athletics, the right people in the community, the Academic Senate [and] ASUCD. I think she really wants to make sure that she’s thoughtful about it, and that she gets appropriate feedback before she goes out of the gate and appoints a search committee, identifies the criteria she’s looking for and launches a search. I don’t know how long that’s going to take, but I know that she will be very deliberate about getting the appropriate feedback before she launches anything.
I know it’s only been a few days, so is it too early to ask what sort of progress you have made so far?
Honestly, what I have spent most of my time doing, and what I will continue to do for the next three weeks is to really spend time with our key stakeholders, getting feedback on the lay of the land. I am having one-on-ones with all of our head coaches, one-on-ones with all the people that report directly to the athletics director – so basically the Athletics Management team – one-on-ones with key student-athlete leadership, so the Sac Officers, and one of the most important groups: our campus partners. Really talking to different leaders and student leaders on the campus to talk about their perspective on athletics and what things we can do better. So really, until I take all that information in, it’s really hard for me to answer that question — but the whole goal of those conversations is to get feedback on how we can incrementally – whether I’m here for three months or four months or whatever – how [we can] incrementally start getting better, and where [the low-hanging fruit is that I can start to tackle.
In the past, there has been a sort of problem with attendance at sporting events that has been somewhat remedied with the success of the basketball team. Is that something that you might look in to?
I definitely think that attendance at sporting events is really, really important for a variety of reasons. Number one, in order for us to continue to provide the conditions for our student-athletes to be successful, you have to have financial resources to do that. So getting people to come and support our student-athletes and buy a ticket to come and watch them compete is important to our financial model, but I would also say that there is another element of why it is important.
These young people do such amazing things; they deserve to have an audience. Nobody likes working 20 hours a week to be competitive and juggling all the things that our student-athletes juggle, and then they show up and there’s no one in the stands. They get energy off of having people in the stands, so that’s the part of it that I think is important. You want them to feel supported, you want them to feel appreciated, you want them to feel like the community cares about what they’re doing. That’s why I think getting butts in the seats is a priority too.
Finally, what do you believe success looks like for UC Davis Athletics?
I think that for me, success is ensuring that the comprehensive excellence that is going on in Athletics is consistent with what is going on on this campus, meaning that at the end of the day this campus provides our students with a world-class education and does an amazing job of developing them to be their best so that they can go out into the world and make a difference and be leaders. Athletics has that same responsibility to our student-athletes. They have a little bit of a different vehicle and at the end of the day, whether you’re a tennis player or a field hockey player, or soccer player, the sport is just the vehicle to help develop the young person.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.