In this new year with a significant change in the political climate, California State University Los Angeles is following suit by moving in a different direction with the hiring of its new Athletic Director, Dr. Daryl Gross. The Los Angeles native is leaning on his success with previous programs like USC, Syracuse and the New York Jets to provide a facelift for Cal State LA athletics’ programs.
“It is fantastic to be back in Los Angeles, where I was born and where my family still lives,” said Dr. Gross. His mother, Dr. Betty Jean Gross, received her undergraduate degree from Cal State LA. “To come back and be leading this program, with all the history and after 11 years at Syracuse is really exciting.”
Gross held various titles over his decade tenure at Syracuse University. Among them were athletic director, professor and vice president. While holding the athletic director position, he orchestrated the university’s move from the Big East conference to the Atlantic Coast conference, better known as the ACC that net an estimated $17 million in annual television revenue.
Gross plans to emulate many of the strategies he employed at Syracuse at Cal State LA. “The goal here is to enhance revenue streams through new channels including evaluating the best conference affiliation for Cal State LA,” said Gross.
Currently Cal State LA is a Division II program in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, which includes schools such as Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Dominguez Hills, UC San Diego and San Francisco State.
“We want to be champions in everything,” Gross said. “We want to do that while we make sure all of our student athletes graduate with a quality education so they can go back into the workforce globally as successful impactful leaders. Providing athletes a championship experience in sports and in the classroom.”
Gross is no stranger to success in either. While Cal State LA has seven national championships, its last win was by the women’s badminton team in 1981, Gross boasts 26 national championships over his career. He attributes his success with former programs to the “epitome of what the coaches have done.” Gross is responsible for the hiring of legendary coaches like Pete Carroll. “If you have great leaders, they will do great things for and with student-athletes.”
It was at USC where Gross worked under the direction of former CSULA Athletic Director, Mike Garrett, which was full circle for him when he joined Garrett at CSULA. Gross worked under Garrett in a 14-year stint at USC as the senior associate athletic director.
“[Garrett] allowed me to use my talent to evaluate personnel, put together coaching units and maximize the department’s success,” Gross commented. And success was plentiful. For that reason, it was an easy sell when Garrett asked Gross to rejoin him at CSULA.
This past July, Garrett who had previously recruited Gross from Syracuse, passed the baton. Prior to his departure, Garrett hired Cheryl Miller to lead the women’s basketball team and Jim Saia as the men’s basketball head coach.
“It’s a tough job and we plan to support all of our coaches with the resources they need to make our program successful.”
For Gross, it was not only his familiarity with Garrett that sold him on moving to CSULA. It was also the vision of the Cal State L.A. President William Covino.
“The President is very aspirational and has tremendous vision for what he wants this school to become,” Gross said. He describes the vision as infectious, so much so that Gross has already begun affecting change.
Cal State LA has already added three new sports to its roster: women’s beach volleyball, men’s cross-country and indoor track and field. Additionally, all of the games are now being live streamed, so that fans can tune in from anywhere.
Gross is also launching a collaborative effort with professors to pair student-athletes with high performing students to ensure the graduation rate remains high for student-athletes.
“The primary reason for student-athletes attending the University is for them to obtain a degree that will set them up for life,” Gross said. “Our entire mission is to support our athletes.”
Part of the rebranding is implementing programs to develop the student just as much as the athlete. Gross had outstanding results with a program he developed at Syracuse which paid for all athletes to attend summer school so that they could graduate ahead of time and potentially continue their education into graduate degree programs.
“I want our student-athletes to be able to go work on Wall Street if they so desire after their senior year and that is what we plan to provide moving forward.”
It will be part of the recruiting pitch according to Gross to lure more top-tier athletes to the Cal State LA campus. According to Gross, Cal State LA “has a unique brand and opportunity to represent this great city.”
Gross obtained a master’s degree and PhD in educational psychology from USC. He holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from UC Davis where he played wide receiver for the Aggie football team.
The new political climate is off to a rocky start, but CSULA under the direction of Dr. Gross is on a new, but steady course.