Knowlton’s Notes: Gratitude this fall

Latest newsletter from Cal’s Director of Athletics

Dear friend of Cal Athletics:

Greetings from Pullman!

As I sit here with our soccer team and prepare to play Washington State this afternoon, I am grateful in many ways. It’s been an exciting fall season so far, with a promising 3-1 start from our soccer team, a promising 3-1 start from our men’s water polo team ranked 2nd in the country, our women’s soccer team who recently enjoyed an eight-game unbeaten streak, and so much more. I am so proud of how our student-athletes continue to excel both athletically and academically.

Although we suffered a close loss, our first trip to Notre Dame in 55 years could not have been more memorable. We had an incredible turnout, with over 15,000 of our fans making their way to Notre Dame Stadium to support our bears. Our Cal family seemed to be everywhere – from South Bend to Chicago. They couldn’t go anywhere without hearing a “Go Bears!” We had over 1,500 people at our tailgate and it was so enjoyable to see several areas of the stadium with our blue and gold clad fans. I was so proud of our team – not just the way they showed up, but the way they behaved. Our coaches, student-athletes and staff have been impressive representatives of our Cal Athletic Department and University.

Earlier this month we held our annual National Championship Week. It’s always so humbling to reflect on the performances of our national champions from last year and this year’s group was impressive as always. We had three team championships in 2021-22 – men’s water polo, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s rowing – and the men’s rowing team title was the 100th in Cal history! In addition, the amazing Camryn Rogers won her third straight NCAA championship in the women’s hammer throw – only the second student to accomplish the feat. In addition, men’s swimmers Destin Lasco and Hugo Gonzalez each won individual NCAA titles, and our 400-yard medley relay team of Lasco, Bjorn Seeliger, Trenton Julian and Reece Whitley also clinched a national title. We are grateful to Chancellor Christ for hosting a reception at University House to celebrate our champions, which were also recognized on the field during our football game against UNLV.

Latinx Heritage Month began September 15th and we remain committed to honoring our important months of emphasis. As we spend this month celebrating and appreciating our Latinx community, I am excited about a new DEIBJ engagement group called LEAP – Latinx Empowerment, Advocacy and Progression. During the first week of October, our employees were invited to participate in the next installment of our DEIBJ Playbook program, which will include a panel discussion with professional wrestling champion and Cal graduate Melissa “Thunder Rosa” Cervantes. Vamos Osos!

NCW Chancellor's ReceptionWe welcomed our newest head coach to the Cal family last month when Jennifer Wong joined us as our head lacrosse coach. Jennifer came to Berkeley after a nationwide search and we are thrilled that she has decided to accept our offer to be the next director of our lacrosse program. Jennifer was most recently an assistant head coach at Temple, where she was an associate for 14 years. She was also a head coach at Immaculata University and an assistant coach at Rutgers University.

I’m so grateful for the energy you all brought to FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium this season, and I urge everyone to help fill the stadium even more during the rest of the season. As we continue to improve our services, I want to remind everyone we have several new group seating options this season – including two spacious suites on the seventh floor of our press gallery. We also have two new open-air suites, each seating 20 fans with private dining, bar and spectator areas – one above the south end zone and the other on the east edge of the stadium. There’s also the Field Club Lodge – eight open-air, four-person table seating along the southwest corner of the field level. Join the excitement!

CMS suiteEach of our basketball teams began training for the 2022-23 season earlier this week, and the start of the season is just over a month away. Both our men’s and women’s teams have improved in both depth and athleticism, and each has an influx of exciting new players. The season begins on November 7th with a doubleheader at the Haas Pavilion – our women play Cal State Northridge and the men play UC Davis. Help us support our student athletes at the Haas Pavilion!

I look forward to visiting NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis next week as I begin my tenure on the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee. As a committee, we are charged with providing regular-season and post-season recommendations and promoting student-athletes’ personal growth and leadership development. The landscape of college football is ever-changing these days, and I look forward to working with the committee to address any issues and challenges we may encounter in the months and years to come.

I am also pleased to welcome our newest McLendon Minority Leadership intern, Talya Franco. Tayla’s arrival in Cal is made possible by the generous donations of Markus Fuchs and Justin Wilcoxwho began supporting this program last year. The McLendon program provides approximately 30 minority youth opportunities each year in college athletic departments across the country, and I am grateful to Justin and Mark for their dedication to this program.

As I look ahead, I look forward to several important upcoming events, including ours Cal Aquatics Gala Next weekend, the Hall of Fame weekend October 21-22 – a partnership between Cal Athletics and the Big C Society – and the 125th Big Game Dinner & Heroes Celebration. To learn more about these events and to register, please click on the links associated with the above events.

I would like to give a special thank you to those who supported them Sports Director’s Excellence Fund – we look forward to continuing to expand this effort, giving me the flexibility to meet the department’s most pressing needs in the ever-changing collegiate athletics landscape. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!

In closing, I would like to acknowledge the generosity of our donors who have helped us fulfill our mission of increasing grants across our department. When I arrived at Cal, we were offering 40 grants less than the NCAA’s allowable limit. Through the incredible generosity of our donors, we have significantly closed this gap, but we still need to do more to reach our goal of fully funding scholarships. Unique opportunities exist for the rest of the Campaign for Cal Athletics Excellence to add a stipend with a gift or pledge of $500,000 or $1 million for men’s and women’s gymnastics, field hockey, lacrosse, and beach volleyball. We are making significant strides in this direction and are grateful for the partnership and dedication of our Cal family to make this a reality.

Thank you to each of you for all of your support. I look forward to seeing you in Berkeley soon!

Go bears!

19 Signature of Jim Knowlton

Director of Athletics

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