Anthony Ervin sits in the stands at the Spieker Aquatics Complex and gazes through the dark lenses of his Ray-Bans. At 31, he scarcely resembles the fresh-faced kid who set a world record then won gold and silver in swimming at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He was just 19, and seemed destined to win more Olympic medals.
The news was delivered at a press conference in September. Reading from a statement, Chancellor Birgeneau announced that at the end of this academic year men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, and men’s baseball would no longer represent the University in intercollegiate competition. Additionally, men’s rubgy, historically Cal’s most dominant program, would be re-designated a “varsity-club” sport.
California magazine: You and I first talked before the 2008 Olympics. You had just graduated, I remember, and even then we discussed the tenuous future of collegiate men’s gymnastics.
Tim McNeill: It’s always an issue, just based on how few teams are left.
CM: When you started in the sport, how many teams were there?
When my grandparents died and it was time to sell their Castro Valley home, I became the keeper of the University of California, Berkeley heirlooms. My great-grandmother’s 1919 yearbook. The wobbly blue-and-gold teddy bear my grandmother got when my mother was born. A set of 1943 Berkeley-edition Wedgwood plates, each depicting a campus building with the monumental drama of a Mount Rushmore print.
Russell White ’93, the all-time leading rusher in Cal football history, sat alone on a Friday afternoon late last fall, watching from the bleachers as Castlemont High kicked off against East Oakland rival Skyline. At the time, White was nominally a Castlemont coach, but as an “assistant offensive coordinator” he was about eighth on the depth chart. Instead of standing on the sidelines during the game, he’d climbed into the stands and was talking to the head coach via headset.