Knowlton Notes: Celebrating a Championship and More

Dear Cal Athletics friend:

Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the warmer spring weather. Came back from Atlanta last week for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. I love attending these competitions – and as many post-season competitions as possible – because they allow me to see and support our student-athletes in person at the height of their season, as well as show my appreciation. and engage with parents and elders.

I hope you know by now that our men’s team won the national title, the seventh in our history and the fifth since 2011 under the guidance of head coach David Durden, who was named national coach of the year following to the performance of the Bears. I am so proud of our student-athletes, coaches and staff for their thousands of hours of hard work to achieve this incredible accomplishment! This win marked the 99th National Tag Team Championship in our school’s history, and while we can never take anything for granted, with eight different teams currently ranked in the top 10, I expect that we will see number 100 soon!

Our women’s team finished eighth in the country, led by second-place Isabel Ivey in swimming in the 200-yard freestyle and third-place in the 200-yard individual medley, to extend a remarkable streak of consistency with its 25th consecutive result among the national top 10 meets the NCAA. Great job, bears!

Not only do our two swimming and diving programs excel in the pool, but they also perform very well in the classroom, and this year they won Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards for their sport. Robin Neumann, a global studies major with a 3.95 GPA, took home the women’s honor, while Reece Whitley, who has a 3.50 GPA as a business administration major, received fire green for men. Congratulations and well done, Robin and Reece!

Overall, our student-athletes continue to shine in their studies, with results from the fall semester showing that each of our 30 teams produced a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Individually, more than 75% of Golden Bears had GPAs above 3.0. Women’s tennis had the highest team GPA with a 3.61 GPA, while men’s golf had the highest team GPA among men’s teams, with a 3.45 GPA. The data also shows that student-athletes are reported in 78 different majors on campus, with business administration, economics, molecular and cell biology, and data science among the most popular. This news follows our December report when we announced the highest degree completion rates in our history at 89%, up 10% over the past six years. Seven teams achieved 100%, including men’s basketball for the first time, while the football program achieved an all-time high of 84%.

Spring football training begins for us on Wednesday and ends with the kick off of our spring game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday April 30. We plan to make it a great day out for the whole family, with bouncy houses, outdoor dining and coffee, autograph opportunities and the chance to take a picture with the axe. Look for more information soon on or in your inbox with all the details, and we hope to see you at Memorial Stadium!

Last March, we commemorated Women’s History Month and highlighted the important contributions women make to our ministry every day. Student-athletes and our staff shared stories of women who influenced their lives and careers, and we launched our first-ever employee engagement group, WLC (Women Leaders at Cal). On June 23, we will begin a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that guaranteed the right to equal opportunity for women, and we are planning a series of events to recognize female student-athletes, the alumni, coaches and staff who have helped build Cal Athletics’ legacy in women’s athletics.

In March, we also honored our outstanding women’s basketball alumnus, Layshia Clarendon, who was inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor at the conference’s Men’s Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas. The event features an inductee from each Pac-12 school and truly shines a light on many of our league’s successful student-athletes. Layshia helped us to the 2010 WNIT Championship as a rookie before leading the program to the Final Four as a senior in 2013. Now in the WNBA, Layshia serves as First Vice President of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association and is a member of the WNBA. Social Justice Council.

Layshia Clarendon for Knowltons Notes

Congratulations are in order for Tarik Glenn, soon to be inducted into the Indianapolis Colts’ Ring of Honor. After completing his long professional career, Tarik returned to work here at Cal and currently serves as Assistant Director of Operations and Strategic Planning for our Athletic Studies Center. Go bears!

Late last week, we announced Leonard Griffin as our next Men’s Soccer Head Coach. Leonard recently served as head coach at Grand Canyon University and nearby USF. He was also a member of our men’s soccer team in 2013-14, as well as spending time with UCLA, Saint Mary’s, Portland and Cal State San Bernardino during his career. Leonard is a graduate of UCLA, where he was an American and national champion. Welcome to the Cal family, Leonard!

We held a special day to celebrate Stu Gordon during our home baseball series against Arizona in March, renaming our facility Evans Diamond at Stu Gordon Stadium. Chancellor Christ hosted a reception at University House before Stu headed to the mound – where he was left-handed for the Bears in 1961 and 1962 – to throw out the first pitch. Stu and his wife, Florianne, have been incredible supporters of California baseball, and I’m thrilled that our stadium’s name honors him for future generations of Golden Bears. Thank you, Stu and Florianne, for all you do to support our student-athletes!

Stu Gordon for Knowltons Notes

Last Tuesday evening, we hosted our inaugural CALiber Championship reception at the University Club. We had a wonderful turnout from football donors who helped us create an impactful fund to support football’s mission to win conference championships. Coach Wilcox and the entire coaching staff were in attendance, along with two of our Pro Bears – Patrick Laird and Ashtyn Davis. We’ve heard incredibly positive feedback and look forward to continuing to engage with this group.

Cal softball welcomed its longtime head coach Diane Ninmire and many alumni of the team last weekend with festivities every day. A member of our Hall of Fame, Diane retired in 2020 after 32 years leading our program, leading the Bears to the 2002 NCAA title, but the pandemic has kept us from celebrating her career until now. We hosted a dinner in Diane’s honor on Saturday evening, where we announced both a new scholarship in her name and that the entrance to our new facility will be named in her honor. Congratulations, Diana!

We also held our first in-person staff meeting in two years last month inside Stu Gordon Stadium. After being on Zoom for so long, it was great to get together and see everyone face to face. Our staff have enjoyed each other so much and we look forward to the next opportunity to meet again.

I want to take a moment to share my sincere gratitude to everyone who supported our 850 student-athletes by donating during this year’s Big Give. Together, we were able to raise over $1.6 million from over 900 donors, marking one of our most successful Big Gives to date. It’s amazing what can happen when the Cal community comes together to support our programs. Congratulations to Cal Men’s Rowing, Cal Women’s Rowing and Cal Aquatics for having the highest total number of Big Give entries. I also want to BIG thank you to our generous supporters Doug and Corinne Cole, Head Coach of Women’s Swimming and Diving Teri McKeever and Jerry Romani, and Gary and Donna Freedman, who provided matching gifts to help ensure the success of Big Give. Philanthropic support is essential to our mission, and we could not have reached this milestone without their generosity.

Thanks, as always, and Go Bears!

19 Jim Knowlton Signature

Jim Knowlton
director of athletics

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