The Cal women’s basketball team announced its nonconference schedule on Wednesday, a challenging 11-game set that includes a rematch of the Bears’ 2013 Final Four game against Louisville.
The Cardinals, Elite Eight participants at 33-5 last season, will visit Haas Pavilion on Sunday, Dec. 21. Louisville beat Cal 64-57 in the Final Four at New Orleans two seasons ago.
“Each and every year, we want to bring one of the nation’s top teams into Haas Pavilion, where we have one of the most exciting college basketball atmospheres you can find,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We are thrilled that Jeff Walz and Louisville will be coming to town, and I know our fans will be ready for a ‘Final 4 rematch.’
“Most importantly, it’s a game that will garner national attention and allow our players to play on the biggest stage.”
The Bears’ regular season opener is Sunday, November 16 at Stockton against Pacific. The home opener will be Tuesday, November 18 against Nevada.
During his days as a student at Cal, Michael Williams considered it a special coup that he knew someone with keys to old Harmon Gym, allowing him and his friends to play late-night pickup basketball.
As interim athletic director at Cal, Williams, 53, is now that guy.
“When I went up to Memorial Stadium and I had a pass that opened the football offices, it was unbelievable,” Williams said Wednesday during his first media interview since being given the keys to operate Cal’s entire athletic department.
“There are elements of this that are just a dream job,” said Williams, a former Cal wrestler now retired from a successful career in investment management. “When you think about it as a fan, I get to talk to all the coaches whenever I want. And I get to interact with the student-athletes.”
A resident of Lafayette, married with three children, Williams officially began his job Wednesday as interim replacement for Sandy Barbour, moved to a different position on campus by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.
But Williams actually has been at work for about three weeks now, not counting volunteer assignments that include serving as a trustee for the U.C. Berkeley Foundation, working on the chancellor’s Task Force for Academic and Athletics and on the search committee for a new provost.
Dirks said Williams was the only person he asked to take this assignment, which could last close to a year. “He’s somebody for whom it was a natural,” said Dirks, explaining that he will rely on Williams’ input as he conducts the search for Cal’s next permanent athletic director.
Cal’s season opener Aug. 30 at Northwestern has been set for a 12:30 p.m. PT kickoff. The game will be shown on ABC and ESPN2.
The Bears and Wildcats opened the 2013 season in Berkeley with the visitors from the Big Ten topping Cal 44-30 in coach Sonny Dykes’ debut.
Northwestern went on to a 4-0 start, then lost seven straight games — albeit two of them by three points and two others in overtime — on the way to a 5-7 season. They were 1-7 in conference play.
Northwestern is projected as a forth-place finisher in the Big Ten West Division by Athlon Sports magazine and tied for sixth by Lindy’s.
The game is the fourth on the Bears’ schedule whose game time has been set.
Cal’s home opener Sept. 6 against Sacramento State will go off at noon.
Cal’s Oct. 24 game against Oregon at Levi’s Stadium will kick off at 7 p.m., and the Nov. 13 game at USC has a 6 p.m. start.
Dwight Tarwater, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward from Cornell, has enrolled in grad school at Cal and will play one season for the Golden Bears. As a grad student, Tarwater will be immediately eligible.
Tarwater averaged 7.1 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while starting all 28 games for Cornell, so he won’t be a game-changer for the Bears. But, given their manpower issues up front, he may be just what they need for the one year he has to play.
The Bears had just nine healthy scholarship players entering the fall after a season-ending knee injury to sophomore center Kameron Rooks.
Tarwater joins senior starter David Kravish, junior reserve Christian Behrens and incoming freshman center Kingsley Okoroh as frontline players available to new coach Cuonzo Martin.
A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Tarwater was Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball for Class II-A in 2010. His uncle, Richmond Flowers, played for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in the NFL.
Marshawn Lynch’s white Lamborghini was parked well out of sight, but that was about the only thing the Seattle Seahawks running back and former Cal star held back from two dozen young teens during a motivational speaking appearance Tuesday.
Lynch’s contract status never was a topic of discussion, nor was his decision to skip the Super Bowl champions’ visit to the White House in May.
Lynch and fellow Oakland Tech High grad Josh Johnson, a backup quarterback with the 49ers, sat under the trees on a sunny day outside Pleasanton and encouraged East Bay youngsters to ask for help and seek their own path.
Dressed in a black “Beast Mode” sweat outfit, Lynch, 28, talked comfortably about his own childhood in Oakland, where he could have permanently taken a wrong turn. He explained how he went to Piedmont to steal bicycles and shoplifted from grocery stores as a grammar-school kid.
“I was doing bad things,” he said.
Then things got serious.
“The people I was out there doing bad stuff with, they started dropping off,” Lynch said.
After attending a funeral for a neighborhood friend slain at the age of seven, Lynch told himself, “I don’t want that to be me.”
Cal sophomore wing Jabari Bird got the chance to play against some of the nation’s top wing players and measure his talents against the NBA’s MVP at the recent Kevin Durant Skills Academy in Washington D.C.
“Overall, it was a great experience,” Bird said. “I got the opportunity to play against some of the top college players in the country and really got after it. I felt like I represented the University of California well with the best of my ability.”
Bird and 14 other top college wing players spent three days in D.C. learning techniques from Durant and participating in drills that focused on ball handling, spot shooting and fast breaks among other skill work. The sessions also included one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three full-court competitions.
At the end of each session, participants played a game with a squad selected by Durant that also included the Oklahoma City Thunder star.
“It was fun to play against the MVP himself,” Bird said. “He was really competitive. He wasn’t taking it easy on us because we were in college. He was real tough to guard.”
Bird, who averaged 8.3 points for Cal as a freshman last season, said Durant had plenty of useful advice to share. “He explained how we all have a lot of potential and that many of us could be playing with him in the NBA one day. “That was very inspiring to hear from the MVP himself.
“I need to continue to get strong, continue to work on my shot, my handle, and my defensive intensity,” Bird said. “I came away with a lot of confidence in my overall game, but I also know I need to get better for my sophomore year.”
Former Cal football coach Mike White called it, “the biggest secret in the history of college athletics.”
Even White didn’t know during the fall of 1976 that Joe Roth, his All-America quarterback, was playing out his senior season while battling an aggressive strain of malignant melanoma. By February 1977, just 21 years old, Roth was dead.
Roth’s remarkable tale — the way he lived and the way he died — unfolds in “Don’t Quit: The Joe Roth Story,” a documentary film five years in the making by Cal grads Phil Schaaf and Bob Rider.
The 85-minute film, which made its debut in April at the Newport Film Festival, had its first Bay Area showing Wednesday night in front of about 300 Cal fans at Memorial Stadium.
The home crowd — including his former coach and a handful of ex-teammates — watched as Roth arrived in Berkeley from Grossmont junior college, became almost an overnight star who won friends with his low-key charm, then silently labored through his final painful months.
“In the end it has nothing to do with the sport,” Schaaf said. “Instead, it’s about humam elegance in the face of unfathomable adversity. In Joe’s case, it’s against this backdrop of athletic greatness.”
Juniors Chris Harper and Cole Leininger were named to preseason watch lists Wednesday, with Harper earning a spot on the wide receivers list assembled by the College Football Performance Awards, Leininger for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter.
Harper is one of 42 wide receivers on the list with the winner of the award to be announced on January 14, 2015.
Harper has been Cal’s most productive receiver over the last two seasons and is the team’s active career leader in receptions (111), receiving yards (1,396), receiving touchdowns (7).
Last season, Harper caught 70 passes for 852 yards and five touchdowns.
Leininger is one of the Ray Guy Award’s 25 preseason candidates for the first time and is a member of the award’s watch list for the second consecutive year.
Leininger is coming off a 2013 sophomore campaign in which he increased his punting average by 3.0 yards per punt to a 42.9 mark for the eighth-best avearge in school history.
His 41.5 yards per punt career average ranks No. 10 on Cal’s all-time list.
Cal’s search for an athletic director could take almost a year, said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who will rely on significant input from the interim director he appointed two weeks ago.
In his first public comments since announcing June 27 that Sandy Barbour was out after a decade on the job, Dirks on Wednesday provided more details on his expected timeline and the process that will determine the next athletic director.
Cal alum Michael Williams will begin his assignment as interim AD on Tuesday, and is charged with running the department while providing Dirks with regular feedback on what he sees as priorities going forward.
Dirks said nothing tangible, including the hiring of a search firm or the assembling of a search committee, will begin until the Chancellor’s Task Force on Academics and Athletics provides its recommendations. That report originally was scheduled to be delivered by late June, but now is expected in September.
One of Williams’ most important tasks, Dirks said, will be as “the person at the helm for when we get the recommendations from the task force to figure out how to respond positively and meaningfully to the task force.”
The Bears missed out on two Bay Area prospects they were pursuing, but landed a verbal commit Tuesday from quarterback Ross Bowers of Bothell, Washington.
Cal whiffed on four-star cornerback/athlete Isaiah Langley of Foothill-Pleasanton, who chose USC, and three-star athlete Stephen Johnson of San Leandro, who said he will attend UCLA.
All three players made their announcements at The Opening, a prestigious camp held at Nike headquarters in Oregon.
The 6-foot-1, Bowers, rated as a four-star quarterback. by espn.com, is a pro-style quarterback according to rivals.com. He chose Cal over Colorado State, the school he was favoring until recently.
“I’ve always considered myself the underdog,” he said on ESPNU. “That’s how I work out, that’s how I train.”
Scout.com rates Bowers as a three-star player and the No. 58 QB prospect in the country. Rivals also rates him as a three-star prospect.
Bowers, whose father coaches at James Madison University, visited the Berkeley campus a couple weeks ago and was taken by Cal’s coaching staff and sophomore quarterback Jared Goff.
“I got to talk with (Jared Goff) on my visit and I realized he’s such a good dude and definitely be a guy I can look up to and definitely help me on my way,” Bowers said. “Being under him coming in as a freshman and trying to learn and soak up as much as I can from him. He’s a great guy and just try to be the best I can be in that program.”