I know there were some raised eyebrows when former senior associate athletic director Jim Bartko decided to leave Cal and return to Oregon. After all, much of the reason he was hired was because of high-performance center and football stadium. As we all know, the project has hit a few snags and Bartko is gone.
But if you want to take a man at his word, Bartko had a lot of good reasons for going to Oregon that had nothing to do with the football stadium. First, he worked there for 17 years and obviously has a lot of ties there. Most of his wife’s family is there and her parents miss their grandchildren.
Still, Bartko says he wouldn’t even have thought of returning if Oregon didn’t hire Pat Kilkenny as its new athletic director. Bartko and Kilkenny have a friendship that dates back over 20 years. Kilkenny was one of the first donors that Bartko dealt with at Oregon.
Even with all that, Bartko said he mourned over his decision for weeks. He said he feels terrible that he let everyone at Cal down. He said his kids wanted to stay. He said it took this unique situation, with Kilkenny getting the AD job and asking Bartko to come back, to make the move.
I only had a chance to talk with Bartko a couple of times but I have no reason to doubt his sincerity. Sure, the timing does give one pause. But he also couldn’t control the timing of Kilkenny’s hiring.
Here are a few more quotes from Bartko that didn’t make it into my story that ran last Sunday:
“I let the people in the Bay Area down, I know that. It will be something that will be hard to live with for a very long time. Cal put its trust in me and gave me that opportunity. Leaving after one year was not something I wanted to do. I know I let Sandy (Barbour) and the chancellor down.”
“This decision took its toll on me. I did not sleep very well for a few weeks. But that just shows what a special place Cal is for me. If it were easy to leave, there would be something wrong. I just hope I don’t get eggs thrown on me by donors and fans when I come back to Haas Pavilion.”
“You never foresee all the issues with any project. It surprised me a little bit that the city of Berkeley was in a battle against us. I think the University of California makes that city. It’s what brings life to that area.”