Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and designated interim athletic director Michael Williams sit down for a press conference on Barbour’s transition Friday. Photo: Drew Jaffe
Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and designated interim athletic director Michael Williams sit down for a press conference on Barbour’s transition Friday. Photo: Drew Jaffe

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced Friday that Sandy Barbour, the university’s athletics director, plans to step down from her post in mid-July.

“After numerous discussions with Sandy, we came to the conclusion that the time was right for her to pursue a different set of professional interests, which she has long harbored and which we have spoken about for several months,” Dirks said during a press conference Friday afternoon.

Dirks and Barbour cited a combination of organizational and personal interests as the motivation for her decision to leave. Michael Williams ’82, a former student athlete at the university and current vice chair of the Berkeley Foundation, will serve as the interim director in Barbour’s absence.

Barbour has held the position since the fall of 2004, but will leave July 15 to take up a role in Berkeley’s Extension Program to develop an academic program in sports management, according to a press release from the university. Her nearly 10-year term running Cal’s athletic program was the longest since men’s and women’s sports merged in 1992, Dirks said.

Under Barbour’s leadership, the university’s athletic program experienced a number of successes, including 19 national team championships and a combined 92 national championships in individual events, relays, crew races and tennis doubles. She also oversaw the renovation of Memorial Stadium in 2012 and the building of the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance in 2011.

But her time as director was not without its difficulties. Protests and legal challenges delayed the Memorial Stadium and Simpson Center while the economic recession strained the program’s financial resources. Most recently, Barbour came under fire for an NCAA report released last October that revealed poor academic statistics for the football and basketball programs, which had some of the lowest graduation rates among schools in Cal’s division. A November announcement by the university, however, revealed an uptick in the graduation success rate of the football program.

Despite the challenges, Barbour reflected positively upon her time heading the athletic program.

“We’ve had our ups and downs athletically, academically, financially; those are no secrets,” Barbour said. “But I stand before you today very firm in my belief that those ups have far outweighed the downs, and each time we have been challenged, we have owned up, we have set a path forward and we have corrected whatever deficiencies we have identified.”

Upon taking her place as interim director, Williams said he will spend the first few weeks listening to “get a lay of the land.”

Williams has held several notable positions in the Cal community. In addition to serving on the Executive Committee of the Berkeley Foundation, he has sat on the advisory boards of the UC Berkeley Division of Equity and Inclusion, and the Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund. Dirks said his experience with the operations of complex organizations will, “provide the managerial continuity [the program] needs.”

Dirks said the search criteria for Barbour’s replacement is “completely wide open,” noting that an athletic director has to fill an array of roles, including financial organizer, people manager, educator, and fundraiser.

Dirks had no details Friday about the search itself, but said he will provide updates as they become available.

Drew Jaffe is a summer intern at Berkeleyside. He grew up in the East Bay and now attends Occidental College in Los Angeles. He can be reached at

Interview: UC Berkeley’s new Chancellor, Nicholas Dirks (08.22.13)
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Old Cal Memorial Stadium for sale, one bleacher at a time (06.27.12)
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