After twenty-two years in the admission office, Director of Admission Michael Goldberger changes playing field July 1, when he becomes the University’s new athletic director. Introducing Goldberger at a Faculty Club press conference in late March, President Ruth Simmons seemed to signal a renewed emphasis on sports at Brown. “There is so much we want to do in this department,” she said. “So much.”
Although Simmons did not elaborate, Goldberger begins his new job on the same day Simmons becomes chair, for two years, of the Council of Ivy Group Presidents, which oversees all Ivy League sports. What’s more, among the priorities of Brown’s Plan for Academic Enrichment is “to integrate more effectively the extracurricular/co-curricular lives of students,” and among the campus-expansion plans announced during the past year is a $20 million fitness center that will be used by all students, whether they play team sports or not.
“When I talked to the president about this job,” Goldberger said in an interview at the admission office two weeks after his appointment was announced, “her feeling was that it’s time for the Ivy League to really take a good look at the role athletics should play at an Ivy League institution.”
Goldberger insisted that any changes have yet to be determined, but the choice of someone like him, as opposed to an administrator with a more conventional sports background, suggests that the administration is trying to bring sports and academics closer together.
It’s no secret that athletes at Ivy schools are sometimes ostracized in the belief that they are not on an academic par with their peers, or are viewed as taking up precious admission slots that belong to applicants with higher grades or standardized testing scores. At Brown this view has been around at least as far back as 1870, when President Alexis Caswell reported seeing a decline in scholarship on campus as a result of interest in “boating and baseball.” One of Goldberger’s responsibilities as admission director has been to make sure the students whom coaches recruit and recommend for admission are able to succeed academically at the University. His move to the athletic complex will at the very least embed that mind-set even more deeply in the athletic program.
At the same time, Goldberger is no stranger to sports. As an undergraduate at Middlebury, he played football under John Anderson, who came to Brown in 1973 as head coach. Goldberger followed him as an assistant. (He was also an assistant baseball coach.) Eight years later he became assistant athletic director, under John Parry ’65, and served as liaison between athletics and the admission office. Goldberger then moved full-time to the admission office as associate director in 1983, becoming director in 1995.
When asked why he accepted the athletic director job, Goldberger, who had just finished sending out his last batch of admission letters, responded, “The ability to have longer relationships with people. Being admission director is a fantastic job, but it’s so cyclical: you move from one class to the next. What I had when I was coaching here were friendships with kids who played for four years in a particular sport.”
About his goals, Goldberger said, “We’re still at the brainstorming stage, but I certainly want to sit down with students and faculty members to talk about their experiences with athletics here.
“I want students to have the ability to work out, have machines, have a safe environment, and to make sure they can do it at hours that are convenient for them. We need to address the status of club sports, to provide opportunities for students who want to be on intercollegiate teams and who might not be recruited athletes. I want to be sure that athletes are treated as full members of the community here, and that coaches are viewed as educators.”
His overall goal, he added, is to make sure that the athletic system at Brown is clearly in line with larger ideals of the Ivy League. “I see the athletes here,” he said, “as a great gift to Brown.”