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Former Big Leaguer Won’t Take No For an Answer When It Comes to Cal Baseball

| February 20, 2011
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Baseball Donors Say Meeting With University Set for This Week

Doug Nickle during Cal days. Photo: UC Berkeley

Doug Nickle, the former Cal pitcher and major leaguer who’s been playing a major role in the campaign to save Berkeley teams slated for elimination, says the university has asked to meet with baseball program supporters about fund-raising issues.

Other Cal baseball alumni and team supporters at today’s season opener at Evans Diamond told us they’ll meet Tuesday to organize donors, then be present at a Wednesday meeting with the university.

Nickle has been very vocal in his disappointment with Cal’s decision earlier this month to continue rugby, women’s gymnastics, and lacrosse, but not men’s gymnastics and, especially, baseball.

In two conversations last week, he accused the university of acting in bad faith with some alumni who raised the funds, using words like “deceptive” and “mismanagement” to describe Cal’s response to the effort and its handling of athletics in general. His chief complaints:

  • The fund-raisers did not receive a hard number they needed to achieve until a month before the university-imposed deadline.
  • The university left unclaimed $5 million to $7 million pledged from big donors. “Our biggest baseball donors weren’t even called,” he says.

Dan Mogulof, the executive director for UC-Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs, says it’s not surprising that some donors weren’t called, because the university knew at a certain point that the effort had fallen short of the amount needed to reinstate the team.

“We know the donor community,” Mogulof says. “The people who have the capacity for significant contributions and their history are well known to us. And we were in contact with far more people than just a single individual. As we got toward the deadline, we saw that they had raised only half of what was necessary to reinstate all five teams.”

The amount of money necessary for reinstatement is perhaps the biggest bone of contention between Nickle and the university. Nickle and Mogulof agree that enough money had been pledged to continue baseball for two years. But Mogulof says that the university has always stipulated that enough funds had to be raised to sustain any individual team for at least seven years in order to avoid being cut.

“The chancellor and administration made it clear that they had to raise 25 million for all five teams for seven to 10 years. They (the baseball donors) want us to take the money and accept their assurance that somehow they’ll be able to achieve this level of fund-raising every two years. The chancellor has made it clear that our current financial situation does not allow for short-term thinking or acceptance of significant risk.”

But still, isn’t two years better than none?

“Two is not better than none if you have a program continually living with a dagger over its head,” Mogulof says.

“If they’re worried about what happens in two years from now, then they have no confidence in their ability to work with the alumni,” says Nickle. He believes the university wants to meet now because of disgruntled big donors upset over the loss of baseball.

“People are pulling donations due to this decision,” he contends. “Some people who have willed their estates to Cal say they won’t do it now. It’s not just some emotional issue. The university is failing to grasp how much they will lose in the long run.”

“There’s no doubt that there are individuals closely connected to the baseball program who are upset,” says Mogulof. “And their reaction may indeed be influencing their philanthropic choices. But in the context of a campus that receives in the neighborhood of 350 to 400 million dollars in contributions, we haven’t seen a serious diminution in philanthropy.”

Mogulof acknowledges that Nickle was an important player in the fund-raising effort and says the university wants to work with him. He cautions, however, that for any additional effort to be successful, it would still have to meet the criteria set out by the chancellor —pledged donations that will sustain the program for at least seven years.

For his part, Nickle—who was a non-scholarship player for Cal in the mid-’90s and had 20 relief appearances for the Phillies and Padres between 2000 and 2002—is straddling the line between confrontation and co-operation. “We’re not interested in fighting the university,” he says. “But we will fight for the university.”

(And as for Cal’s opening day against visiting Utah? After rain-outs Friday and Saturday, the 17th-ranked Golden Bears swept a double-header today. They also received a steady flow of contributions at a “Save Cal Baseball” table outside the gate.)

KQED News Editor Dan Brekke contributed to this report.

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Category: Berkeley, Education, Sports

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  • Steve

    Yeary, Birgeneau, Barbour and Moguloff use whatever estimate suits their purpose at the moment. At the time of the Chancellor’s September press conference, cutting the five teams allegedly would save 4 million dollars per year. Then, we learned that 100 million would be necessary to endow all five teams. This is where the 25 million dollar figure derived from; a down payment on the total endowment required. Later this was lowered to 80 million. There was never any talk of funding each team separately for 7-10 years prior to the day it was announced Baseball and Men’s Gymnastics would not be reinstated. On that day, Yeary made statements that Baseball and Men’s Gymnastics cost anywhere from 1.25 to 1.5 million dollars a year and that Rugby, Women’s Gymnastics and Women’s Lacrosse cost anywhere from 800 thousand to 1.14 million per year – a combined cost for all five teams of between 2.05 million and 2.64 million per year. Then, on Feb 12, Sandy Barbour stated the basis of the 80 million endowment on KGO radio. 80 million at a 5% return is 4 million per year. We now know that the 4 million figure is between 155% and 195% of the cost of all five teams stated by Yeary. Based on Yeary’s cost estimates and Barbour’s 5% return, the endowment would not require 80 million but rather between 40 million and 52 million. The amount raised was between one third and one quarter of the total needed to endow all five teams. This is essentially the original condition which was to raise 25% of the estimated 100 million to endow all five teams. The new condition of 7-10 years raised for each team separately came about on the day of the announcement that Baseball and Men’s Gymnastics were not being reinstated. Using Yeary’s estimate of 12-13 million raised and a cost of 2.05 million to 2.64 million to fund all five teams; it is apparent that amount would have sustained all five teams between 4.5 years(12/2.64) and 6.34 years(13/2.05).