Knowlton’s Notes: Investing in our football program

Message from January from Athletics Director Jim Knowlton

Dear friend of Cal Athletics:

I wish you a happy new year and I hope you had a nice holiday.

I would like to start this month’s newsletter with some exciting news that we announced earlier today: Travers family football coach Justin Wilcox has signed a contract extension allowing him to oversee our football program through the 2027 season. I am grateful for all Justin has done to improve our program despite an incredibly challenging moment, and for how he continues to develop our young men in all aspects of their lives. He is an excellent team player and partner to me and the department and I appreciate that he acts with integrity in everything he does.

Justin’s commitment to Cal is part of an ongoing financial investment in our football program, which includes assistant coaches, administrative staff, nutrition, social media and fan experience initiatives. In addition, the program has recently benefited from significant philanthropic donations, including from the Travers family for endowing the position of head football coach for the Travers family and from Paul White for the creation of an innovation and wellness center.

In December, we launched Championship CALiber, an initiative to provide additional support for Cal football. Championship CALiber is made possible through the generosity of multiple donors committed to the team’s long-term success, who have collectively pledged nearly $2 million over three years. I am incredibly grateful for everyone who has contributed and look forward to others joining in to support us on our journey. If you are interested in joining Championship CALIber, please click on the link above for more information or email [email protected]

Our winter sports are in full swing, our spring sports are back on campus preparing for their season – and in the case of rugby and tennis they are already underway and thriving. I was purposely attending training sessions and I can see the smiles on the faces of the students and athletes as they prepare for their competitive opportunities. We’ve been on a long, arduous journey over the last few years, so it’s really gratifying to reach this point and sense their optimism and hope. Last weekend both of our gymnastics teams opened with victories at the Haas Pavilion, our rugby team won their tournament in Los Angeles, Kris Kwinta, the new director of our men’s tennis program, picked up his first win on the road in Tulsa, and our women’s tennis team dominated their tournament in Berkeley.

Our biggest basketball afternoon of the year so far is coming up this Sunday with a doubleheader at the Haas Pavilion. Our men’s team starts the day at 12 p.m. against Arizona No. 3, while our women’s team hosts Stanford No. 2 at 4 p.m. I hope to see you on this big day, and I know our student-athletes really appreciate your presence to improve our home field advantage from Haas.

Last Monday, more than 60 Golden Bears, including many members of our men’s and women’s rowing teams and field hockey team, contributed to the annual MLK Day of Service & Celebration on the Richmond Greenway hosted by Urban Tilth. The effort was coordinated by our DEIB office and the Cameron Institute. Community engagement is one of four main pillars of the Cameron Institute and less than 18 months after its official inception it has had a tremendous impact on our entire department. In just a short amount of time, we’ve been able to create a strong foundation and provide our student-athletes with a world-class developmental experience that they will benefit from both at Cal and after graduation. Find out more about our first year in our newly released Cameron Institute Annual Report.

I want to congratulate the coach again Kirk Everist. After leading our men’s water polo program to the NCAA championship in December, he was named National Coach of the Year for the third time in his career. Nikolaos Papanikolaou was also voted International Player of the Year, becoming the 15th Golden Bear to receive that honour. We are so proud of Kirk and his team!

Shortly after Kirk’s squad won the title, Ken Montgomery ’18 made a generous $2.7 million legacy pledge to the men’s water polo program, with $2 million set aside for founding the water polo program Kirk Everist Men’s Water Polo Endowment to support coach and staff salaries and the remaining $700,000 to create the Donna Kacerek Men’s Water Polo Excellence Fund to support programmatic spending for the team. Ken is a longtime supporter of men’s water polo and was one of Cal’s original mic men and we’re excited to see his legacy live on through these gifts. Thank you Ken!

We are excited to release our Cal Athletics Fund 2020-21 Annual Report, celebrating not only our philanthropic success and generous supporters, but also the outstanding achievements of our student-athletes. As we enter the final two years of the Light the Way campaign, we are grateful for your generosity, which has enabled us to reach 75 percent of our $350 million goal. I look forward to sharing more about how your support impacts our student athletes and paves the way for continued greatness!

Finally, I would like to congratulate Beth Tafolla-Voetsch on becoming our Senior Associate Athletics Director/Chief Development Officer. After six years as a manager in our development office, she has earned this opportunity with her deep understanding of the culture of our department and the university. I am delighted that she accepted our offer and will continue the great work she has done throughout her career with us. Beth recently spoke about her experiences and visions with the DI ticker, which you can view at this link.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support and to an exciting 2022!!

Jim Knowlton
Director of Athletics

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