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Friday, October 15, 2021

Teresa Gould awakens athletics department as interim

UC DAVIS ATHLETICS / COURTESY
UC DAVIS ATHLETICS / COURTESY

Interim athletics director sets up department for success over past 14 months

The decision has been made about who the next athletics director will be at UC Davis, but while all flock to aid in welcoming Kevin Blue to the Aggie family, the media fails to mention the department saying goodbye to interim AD Teresa Gould.

Gould, the wife of head football coach Ron Gould, has been in the athletics director position for 14 months after the immediate resignation of previous three year AD Terry Tumey. Appointed as acting AD by former Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, the very experienced sports enthusiast had hopes of revamping the athletics department before the end of her time at Davis, and she feels that that is exactly what she accomplished.

“My story is actually quite interesting because prior to coming to UC Davis, I had only worked in intercollegiate athletics,” Gould said. “I got out of athletics, literally for maybe only seven months and worked over at the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and it was a breath of fresh air. It was different, it was something new, it was a different pace, it was a great introduction to the campus for me so to work at the Cal Aggie Alumni Association […] it helped acclimate me to UC Davis and the culture and the people, but then it was just ironic. I walked away from this thirty year career in athletics, it lasted seven months, and then I got right back into it as the interim athletics director and I’ve loved it.”

While the search for a permanent AD has gone on, Gould has remained gracious and patient in the position, knowing immediately that she would not be here for more than a full academic year and the department was due for consistency.

“It has absolutely been a tremendous experience for me,” Gould said. “It has been personally rewarding, professionally rewarding, and I’m really grateful and honored that I had an opportunity to come in and help for 14 months. […] I knew right from the beginning that I would be here for a full academic year, we planned on that. I think part of that was because we have had so much transition in this position, and we have in the past six to seven years, we knew that we had to get it right and we knew that we had to be thoughtful and very deliberate about getting it right. Chancellor Katehi was very comfortable, given my experience, having me in this role for a full academic year, so I wasn’t completely surprised by the timeline.”

But why wouldn’t Gould want to stay in intercollegiate sports?

“Because of my marriage to Coach Gould and some of the inherent conflicts that that creates,” Gould said. “That’s absolutely the reason that I made it one hundred percent crystal clear at the beginning that I wasn’t going to be a candidate.”

The conflicts however, are not enough to stop Gould from effectively performing her duties for all 23 teams, including football.

“I am ultimately the decision maker and leader for the whole department,” Gould said. “But I think we have such a strong leadership team here and we have a high level of teamwork and cohesion that whenever it came to decisions around football whether it was financial decisions or philosophical decisions or what have you, I would always weigh in on what my philosophy is or what my position is on that issue. We want to have consistency and equity across the department too, so you don’t want football decisions being made in a silo or a vacuum, so I would always lend my perspective and then ultimately Josh [Flushman, associate A.D./sports enhancement and development] would consult with the other appropriate people.”

But it is this conflict that ultimately is what makes the job an unreasonable goal for Gould.

“Football is one of the most visible in our departments,” Gould said. “It’s a program that this community and our alumni care a great deal about, so for the athletic director to have to seperate themselves, to create distance in administering and monitoring that program, it just isn’t good for the program. We have been able to make it work, and I think [this is] the reason we made it work on a short term basis.”

Knowing she would soon be replaced, this woman in athletics made the changes she felt were crucial to the success of the department and her successor.

“I think being an interim is tough because you never quite know how much to make it yours,” Gould said. “Like, how much do I change and how much do I hold back and let the permanent AD make all the transformational changes. I tried to balance that because I felt like it was my obligation that at the end of my tenure that I wanted it to be a better place than it was before and I think I accomplished that. […] I inherited a department that was just starving for energy, inspiration, leadership and engagement. This athletics department was ready to take that next step.”

Gould’s subtly aggressive changes to the culture of the athletics department enabled her to continue managing through Chancellor Katehi’s leave and the appointment of acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter without disruptions.

“We still have such strong support and her other cabinet members are hugely supportive and very helpful and the deans and her staff,” Gould said. “It really, other than me personally missing working with her, hasn’t affected my day to day work or what I am doing in terms of the role. Hexter has been more than supportive and engaged and very interested in athletics and what is going on.”

The ongoing support continued to alleviate Gould’s financial pressures.

“There is really what I consider to be three buckets,” Gould said. “There is student fees, then there is institutional support money that comes from the campus that is not student fee based, so money that comes from central funds and then the third one is what I call self generated income income that we generate on our own, so it’s fundraising, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, concessions, selling merchandise, money that comes from the conference or the NCAA. So those are really the three buckets that go to make the athletic department budget. The biggest challenge we have, as far as our funding model is, like everybody else on campus, expense growth at times is more excessive than the income growth. The employee benefits costs increase, the minimum wage increase, staff get mandatory merit increases, there are costs that go up every year that are out of our control, but the income side doesn’t necessarily go up at the same rate as the cost side so that’s kind of the ongoing challenge and the ongoing balance that we need to play and we can’t necessarily expect that the campus is going to fund that. That is where that self generated income and us fundraising and having people coming out to the games and selling tickets comes in. That’s why that piece of our business is so crucial because that is where we want to have growth.”

Gould’s enhancements to the athletics department made it easy for her to step back and aid the committee on what characteristics belong to a permanent athletics director.

“Early on when the committee was appointed, Chancellor Katehi asked me to be like an advisor or an ex officio non voting member,” Gould said. “But that was surrounding advising the committee on what the commands of the job are, what do I think the most critical skillsets are that this job requires and what kind of experiences and background would set somebody up for success in transition. I helped with the job description, things like that. I certainly was a resource for candidates. I mean I know a lot of people in this industry and they would call and say tell me about the job, tell me about UC Davis, but I wasn’t a voting member of the committee. When the committee actually got to the point of reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, discussing the merit of candidates, I wasn’t involved in any of that.”

Gould agrees that Blue will blend in quite well with the Aggies blue and gold spirit.

“I met with ASUCD and introduced Kevin Blue to the ASUCD senate, and they have been very complimentary and very engaged in improving the relationship between athletics and the student body,” Gould said. “We have been more proactive with our communication with the community. I think our coaches feel more empowered and that their voices are more heard in this department, so I think we have tremendous progress in a short period of time and I think Kevin will benefit from coming in and making it his with his own style and his own philosophy.”

Blue however, is inheriting a strong team and student support that Gould finds to be one of her capstone accomplishments in the role as athletics director.

“I think the two things I am most proud of are re-energizing the moral in the department,” Gould said. “I think people are enjoying coming to work here a lot more than they were a year ago. I think the second things is making progress in our relationship with the student body.”

There is nothing more now that Gould can do for the athletics department at UC Davis except reflect and observe.

“I know I was thrust into a very difficult circumstance and it has really been just a tremendous honor and privilege to be able to lead this department,” Gould said. “I think our 600 student athletes are some of the brightest and the best in the country, I believe they really embody the appropriate balance between student and athlete and they’re young people that give back to the community at a high level and it has been super rewarding for me to be able to lead this department and I look forward now to just leaving a fan.”

In wishing the athletics department the best of luck, she has agreed to stay within the Aggie family in other ways.

“I’ve agreed to stay on to help Kevin with the transition through Aug. 31 so I’ll be here in July and August just kind of helping him get up to speed, hire his own team, [and] we have some coaching positions to fill,” Gould said. “I’ll help him with the transition and then by Sept. 1, I’ll then transition to some campus role. We’re still discussing what exactly that might be, but it will definitely be outside of athletics.”

As the 2016 academic year comes to an end, Gould will complete her role as interim athletics director and the department, she hopes, will continue to generate the energy she put in.

Written by: Veronica Vargo — sports@theaggie.org

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