SAN FRANCISCO (AP) California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the jobs of athletic directors at the state's public universities to be tied more to the academic performance of athletes.
Newsom outlined his recommendations in letters sent this week to University of California President Janet Napolitano and California State University system Chancellor Timothy White. He said there should be aggressive benchmarks and penalties - not bonuses - in the contracts of athletic directors depending on the department's academic performance.
"It's a disgrace," Newsom said in a phone interview Friday. "The reality is self-evident. We're not incentivizing academics. We're incentivizing athleticism."
Newsom's letters come at a time when there are three public schools in the state - California, Berkeley; Fresno State; and Sacramento State - searching for new athletic directors. He suggested financial stipulations based on academic performance be placed into every new athletic director's contract and, eventually, reworking existing contracts around the state.
"We cannot skirt around the edges of the problem," Newsom wrote in both letters. "If our goal as a university is to educate, then we should make it a contractual priority."
In the letter to Napolitano, Newsom noted the Cal football team's past two NCAA Graduation Success Rate figures - 44 percent in 2013 and 48 percent in 2012. In the letter to White, he highlighted the Fresno State men's golf team's most recent GSR of 29 and the Sacramento State football team's GSR of 61.
The most recent GSR is based on four years of data collected from freshman athletes who entered school between 2003-04 and 2006-07 and earned their degrees in six years. The GSR also allows schools to subtract athletes who leave before graduation, as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete if they remained.
Cal has been focused on improving the academic performance of its athletes, particularly in football and men's basketball, and said the most recent GSR ratings do not reflect the changes that have taken place at the university in the past couple of years. The football team had a 969 out of 1,000 in the Academic Performance Rate for 2012-13 released by the NCAA in May as more resources and support have been dedicated to academics.
Interim athletic director Michael Williams was on a task force looking into academics in the Cal athletic department and said recommendations will be made to the chancellor before the end of September. Williams said Friday that he would not respond specifically to Newsom's letter but stressed the importance of the issue.
"Does anyone really think I'd be in this job not caring about academics?" Williams said. "I'm very focused on academics and we were before I took over. We had already made changes."
With three searches for athletic directors ongoing in California, Newsom believes it's an opportunity to start enforcing stricter academic standards among athletic department leaders.
Cal is seeking a replacement for Sandy Barbour, who left in June. She has since been hired as Penn State's athletic director.
Fresno State announced Tuesday that Thomas Boeh is being reassigned from athletic director to an adviser to the university's president. And Terry Wanless retired as Sacramento State's athletic director June 30.
Newsom, a UC Regent and former mayor of San Francisco, said he has called for hearings at both of the state's academic governing bodies to discuss changes in athletic directors' contracts and expects those meetings to take place in the next few months. He also said he would be "very critical" of any new contract - including those for coaches - that comes before the Regents for approval.
Steve Montiel, a spokesman for Napolitano's office, declined comment. Mike Uhlenkamp, director of public affairs for the CSU system, said White received Newsom's letter and was reviewing the recommendations.
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Berkeley contributed to this story.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP