Cal Hopes To Make Baseball Program Profitable Going Forward
As budget cuts "continue to force colleges to slash athletic spending," the Univ. of California-Berkeley's newly revived baseball program is "embarking on an unorthodox and creative funding plan that, if it works, may serve as a blueprint for the future of college sports," according to Hannah Karp of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The plan is "to make the team revenue positive." Cal's Baseball Foundation, after consulting everyone from Giants President & COO Larry Baer "to a customer fulfillment manager at Intel," last month "presented school officials with a strategic plan under which the program can cover its roughly $1 million in operating costs while generating net income of $5,000 a year." Some parts of the plan are "obvious, like installing lighting at Evans Diamond so games can be played at night when more fans can come." Other innovations, if Cal adopts them, "could put the Bears at the forefront of collegiate baseball." These include "voluntarily limiting scholarships, selling naming rights to the diamond, offering electronic game-day programs for smartphones and even squaring off against" MLB teams. Under the new plan, longtime Cal baseball coach David Esquer "will assume primary responsibility for team fundraising and marketing." Cal supporters said that "everything from outfield advertising and theme nights to kids' camps and pre-season banquets are on the table." Last month, Cal "hosted its first-ever three-day tournament at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, and a game against the Giants or the A's may be in the works" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/22). Cal Baseball Foundation BOD member Sam Petke said of the efforts to save the program, "It was a lot of hard work by a lot of very supportive donors. It's been an incredible response throughout this process." Petke said $9-9.5M was raised to save the program, adding, "We're really pushing hard to get that final number above $10 million to exceed the goals that the university gave us." Petke: "The University of California is better with a baseball program and that is something that I think reverberated throughout the University of California community and throughout the baseball community" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 4/20).