Published September 6th, 2016
Published September 7th, 2016
Published September 7th, 2016
by Irvin Muchnick
The former director of recreational sports at the University of California-Berkeley says the move of Solly Fulp — a controversial figure in the cover-up of football player Ted Agu’s 2014 death — from deputy director of intercollegiate athletics to the newly created position of executive director of university partnerships and services poses questions about both the transparency of the hire and the new primacy of revenue generation even in the supervision of non-National Collegiate Athletic Association sports programs at Cal.
Mike Weinberger, who retired in February after more than 30 years with the university — 18 of them as head of rec sports — told Concussion Inc. that he has been “spending some of my free time researching aspects of the university that troubled me when I was an employee.”
Weinberger’s timeline of events is reproduced at the bottom of this article. On the heels of our reports that Fulp might have been protected and rewarded for slowing and redirecting the reports of whistleblower student-athlete Joey Mahalic regarding the excesses of the strength and conditioning program of football coach Sonny Dykes’ assistant Damon Harrington, the timeline offers a chilling insight into an institution that appears to have veered from its historical values.
(To be clear, the administrative term “rec sports” today means far more than the club sports program at Berkeley featuring 30-plus student led teams. The mission of rec sports is offering comprehensive facilities and programs for students’ mental and physical health.)
Weinberger’s information outlines the bureaucratic maneuvering around Fulp — spanning the period between the departure of his boss, former athletic director Sandy Barbour, to that of his apparent main executive ally and mentor, former vice chancellor John Wilton. Barbour now holds the same position at Penn State. Wilton maintains what appear to be advisory roles with the campus Goldman School of Public Policy and the Center for Executive Education, while adding to his portfolio directorships at private equity corporations in Brazil and Peru..
Critics of Fulp’s new job, which paid him at least $280,000 between May 2015 and May 2016, say the process also raises questions about how the administration of the soon-departing chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, used the campus budget crisis — itself exacerbated by the skewed prioritizing of intercollegiate athletics — as a pretext for redoubled for-profit business models and incentives.
Weinberger said, “In full disclosure, Fulp’s hiring has a very personal interest for me because his job entailed overseeing not only the University Partnership Program (UPP), but also me.”
Weinberger said he first heard of this position and its responsibilities at a January 2015 meeting in which vice chancellor Wilton told him — along with all the other former directors of campus business and administrative services units — that the campus financial situation had created a “need for new revenues” under an assistant vice chancellor dedicated to that role.
“Wilton went on to say that, due to budget constraints, the campus would not be hiring an external search firm and, because time was of the essence, the position would only be listed for the legally required minimum of two weeks,” Weinberger said. “As a long-time campus administrator, I interpreted this to mean that VC Wilton had already picked the person he wanted for this position. Limiting recruitment efforts and listing for the minimal two weeks are well-known methods of limiting the applicant pool and almost guaranteeing that your pre-selected candidate would be hired.
“I remember walking out of that meeting with two other directors saying, ‘Did we just hear VC Wilton slam dunk Solly Fulp into an assistant VC position?’ My mind had gone to Solly Fulp because, as deputy director of intercollegiate athletics, he was already leading UPP, and because it was well known on campus that Solly was one of Wilton’s favorites.
“My speculation now is that while slam-dunking Fulp was Wilton’s plan, there must have been pushback from the administration, because in the end the position was titled ‘executive director’ and I believe a search firm was hired. However, the result was what I predicted: On June 8, 2015, Solly Fulp was named the new executive director of UBPS.”
Weinberger called the process troubling. But even more troubling, he said, was that Fulp now had rec sports reporting to him.
Weinberger asked Wilton why he had decided that rec sports, “a major student service highly valued by students, should report to someone selling campus-wide sponsorships, a program that the majority of students distrusted/hated. The vice chancellor gave what I thought were weak rationales. He said rec sports needed to be part of UPP and perhaps this way rec sports could receive more UPP revenue. But rec sports was already part of UPP. And a unit’s share of revenue is based on its assets, not on who supervises it.”
After reporting to Fulp and hearing him speak at rec sports meetings, Weinberger came to the conclusion that Fulp had specifically requested authority over Weinberger’s department. The background, Weinberger believed, was that Fulp had long aspired to become an athletic director, but that it had become clear, following Barbour’s departure, that Chancellor Dirks strongly supported making the interim AD, Mike Williams, a permanent appointment.
“Solly was not going to AD at Cal,” Weinberger said. “He cited his experience as an intercollegiate student-athlete (wrestler) and his time in intercollegiate athletics’administration as his credentials for overseeing rec sports. In working with him, I came to learn that he clearly viewed rec sports as ‘Athletics Lite.’ At his first full meeting of the rec sports staff, Solly showed us a Nike TV commercial to inspire us.”
(Fulp is believed to have played a role in Cal’s new sponsorship and branding deals with Under Armour and Learfield. More on this soon.)
Weinberger’s timeline reveals curious wrinkles. He called “astounding” Fulp’s $50,000 “sign-on bonus,” atop the $230,000 base salary. Equally astounding, perhaps, is that the contract was signed on May 6, 2015, but the hire was not announced to the campus until June 8. Then there was Fulp’s three-year contract extension, which was executed more than five months prior to the scheduled expiration of the original contract. And finally, Wilton extended Fulp a mere three weeks before the vice chancellor himself departed.
Asked whether Fulp personally receives a commission for each sponsorship he brings in, Weinberger said: “That’s what I’ve been told — once by a high-level administrator in athletics, once by someone in the chancellor’s office, and once by a student leader. But I have no documented answer to that question.”
Weinberger said one of the factors motivating him to speak out publicly is that Fulp has began the process of filling Weinberger’s position as rec sports director. “I believe rec sports, and thus all Cal students, will suffer if Solly Fulp is allowed to make this critical hiring decision. Also, as long as rec sports reports to him, I cannot recommend that any of the highly qualified candidates that I know apply.”
Mike Weinberger’s timeline notes
HIRING OF SOLLY PULP AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSITY BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS AND SERVICES
Chancellor Dirks announces that Sandy Barbour, Cal’s Athletics Director, will “leave her position to accept a new role on campus.” Mike Williams named interim Athletic Director.
Search committee for new Athletic Director announced, Fall 2014
Solly Fulp listed as one of six leading candidates.
Business & Admin Services directors mtg w/ VC Wilton.
VC Wilton announces creation of new high-level position (Asst. VC?) to oversee University Partnership Program (UPP) and to supervise Rec Sports. To save money, UC will not pay for outside search firm. To save time, job will only be listed for Federal law required minimum of two weeks.
Invite from Elizabeth Albee, Exec. Asst. to VC Wilton
VC Wilton and Solly Fulp sign Solly’s contract for new Executive Director of University Business Partnerships and Services. One year contract is for $230K salary, full benefits and $50K Sign-on Bonbus ($50K bonus for a one year contract!?)
Chancellor Dirks announces that Mike Williams has been hired as Cal’s new Athletic Director
Beginning date of fixed term of Solly Fulp’s contract as Executive Director of University Business Partnerships and Services
VC Wilton announces appointment of Solly Fulp as new Executive Director of University Business Partnerships and Services
VC Wilton signs addendum to Solly Fulp’s contract, new term is slightly over three years, May 11, 2015 – June 30, 2018
Note that this is more than five months before existing contract expires.
Solly Fulp signs addendum
Chancellor Dirks does not sign addendum.
VC Wilton announces that he is leaving campus
“eBook Bonus: Introduction to ‘Ted Agu Papers,’ Cal Football Death Cover-Up,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=11359
“Table of Contents of the New eBook ‘TED AGU PAPERS’,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=11367
Amazon Kindle link: http://amzn.to/2aA2LDl
“Explainer: How ‘Insider’ Access Made San Francisco Chronicle and Berkeley J-School Miss Real Story Behind Death of Cal Football’s Ted Agu,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=10931
Complete headline links to our Ted Agu series: https://concussioninc.net/?p=10877