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Cal makes crew coach Gladstone new AD

By Jared GreenDaily Planet Staff
Thursday May 03, 2001

In a surprise move this week, Cal Chancellor Robert Berdahl announced he had hired crew coach Steve Gladstone to be athletics director of the university. 

The announcement came as a shock to nearly everyone other than Berdahl. Gladstone was never named as a candidate for the job, and was actually a member of the search committee that recommended interim AD Robert Driscoll for the position. 

But Berdahl said he wasn’t satisfied with the two final candidates, Driscoll and Vanderbilt associate AD Bradley Bates, who met with athletics department administrators and coaches last week. He decided to call Gladstone, who had turned down the opportunity to become a candidate early in the process. 

“In the course of our conversations, Steve talked about his vision for the athletics program,” Berdahl said. “The question arose, ‘You have such a compelling vision, why aren’t you a candidate?’” 

Gladstone was in Seattle this weekend to coach his top-ranked men’s team against Washington. Berdahl called him in his hotel room and offered him the job on the spot. He flew back on Sunday and spent the day with Berdahl before accepting the job. 

Gladstone said he changed his mind when he realized the effect he could have on the department. 

“Ultimately, what changed my mind was that significant change could be made,” he said. “Not structural changes, but attitudinal changes.” 

Most surprised, and disappointed, was Driscoll, who was considered the favorite right until the announcement. He has been with Cal for 14 years, and was former athletic director John Kasser’s No. 2 man. Driscoll left the building shortly before the announcement was made and did not attend the press conference. 

“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” Driscoll said. “You compete and operate within a set of ground rules. That’s what you do, and then they don’t follow through with those rules, it’s disheartening.” 

When asked about his future with Cal, Driscoll was short. 

“I will continue to serve Cal athletics as I learn more about the chancellor’s new direction,” he said. 

Driscoll is reportedly in the running for the athletic director position at Harvard. He will continue to serve as Cal’s interim AD until Gladstone takes over on June 1. 

Berdahl said he was sorry the decision had to be painful for Driscoll. 

“He did a wonderful job as our interim athletics director, and he has served the campus well,” Berdahl said. “He has contributed so much. 

“But the decision was mine. I had to make it, and I made it. Steve is exactly the person I wanted.” 

Gladstone said he tried to contact Driscoll before the decision was announced, but was unsuccessful. He termed the events leading to his hiring as “beyond my control.” 

Gladstone’s main function will be as a fundraiser, as the renovation of Memorial Stadium will be on the top of his agenda. The funding for the project is still up in the air, but both Gladstone and Berdahl said the renovation is on schedule. Gladstone said he will continue to coach crew after taking over as AD. 

But both men mostly talked about vague “vision” and “values” for college athletics. 

“Without question, our goal is to create an environment in the department where our student-athletes can express their competitive desires and instincts in the most profound way,” Gladstone said. “There needs to be a very clear vision and support and respect in the work that the coaches are doing. I think small things make a huge difference. And when an individual, whether it be a coach, a student-athlete or an administrator, feels, for a lack of a better phrase, that empowerment, that respect, there is going to be greater effort, greater clarity in their endeavors.” 

Berdahl stressed that Gladstone’s success in his coaching career would help him on the new job. 

“Steve Gladstone is the person who can lead this very good program to the next level, to make it an exemplary championship program in every way,” Berdahl said. “He is a man who has a compelling vision of what athletic competition at the highest levels of achievement can mean in the lives of the young people we are seeking to educate. He is, at his core, an educator.” 

Berdahl also said rowing is a model for any team effort. 

“There’s probably not an athletic competition that requires more of a uniformity than crew,” he said. 

Gladstone, on the other hand, joked that he was making the move to help his teams get some respect. 

“This is the only way I will ever get more ink for crew,” he laughed. “This is my final ploy.” 

Gladstone will oversee a Cal athletics department that includes 27 Division I sports and 25 club teams. The department has a budget of $34 million with a staff of 200. 

Berdahl’s experiment has little precedent. Going from a crew coach to athletic director is unheard of at the major college level. Gladstone’s only administrative experience came at Brown, where he was acting AD for about a year.