Myd 1183x642
Long Beach State

Long Beach State Athletics At Crossroads With New Athletic Director Hire

After 12 months full of peaks and valleys on the playing surface and in the administrative offices, the Long Beach State athletics department finds itself at a crossroads. The Beach has a budget deficit, has had an interim athletic director for a year, and is in desperate need of facility upgrades.

Yet, LBSU has also been the best athletics department in the Big West Conference for two years running—proven by winning consecutive Commissioners Cup awards that takes into account the results of all 19 sports.

That success comes at the conclusion of a year that many in and around the program called “rudderless,” with the university lacking leadership during a state of constant turnover amid financial struggle.

So, where is LBSU going? Is the department satisfied with just existing, or are big positive changes coming with the hiring of a new athletics director in the coming weeks?


The sudden departure of LBSU athletic director Andy Fee last summer complicated an already difficult monetary situation for the department. The COVID-19 shutdowns crippled most of the mid-major universities across the nation, and the Beach is still feeling those effects.

When Ted Kadowaki was appointed interim athletic director, the longtime Long Beach State finance administrator and CFO had an explicit mission: get the house in order. As he did, he found that there wasn’t much waste in the department. Anyone who’s spent time around the university’s teams knows they aren’t exactly free-wheeling big-spenders.

According to Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database, LBSU athletics department had a total revenue of $21.43 million and total expenses were $25.8 million in 2022.

The LBSU administration wrung their hands publicly about the $4 million deficit, and Kadowaki even came to a Long Beach Century Club meeting to bemoan that figure in front of some of the university’s most consistent boosters.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get back to where we need to be,” Kadowaki said.

To the bigger schools in the area, that money is chump change. USC and UCLA are getting $80 million annually just as a bonus for joining the Big Ten Conference next year, for example. Even San Diego State, a university in the same California State system as LBSU, has an operating budget of $67 million. 

But for LBSU, that $4 million could be the difference between them keeping or losing players, coaches and staff.


The recent departure of baseball coach Eric Valenzuela and women’s basketball coach Jeff Cammon to Saint Mary’s College throws into stark relief the issues LBSU is having. When major decisions are put off and there isn’t a clear sense of direction, it’s hard for anyone to believe in a vision they haven’t been shown while pennies are pinched.

“Obviously it’s not an easy situation for anybody when you don’t have an athletic director in line, but it is what it is,” Valenzuela said shortly after his announced departure. “You have to roll with the punches like anything else. I was given everything that was needed and everything that was promised. It’s the future that’s unclear.”

The loss of talented leaders goes beyond the fields and courts. 

Last year shortly before Fee departed for the University of Washington, LBSU was poised to hire Alexis McDonald into a senior athletics department role. McDonald is the daughter of LBSU basketball legend Glenn McDonald and current LBSU Housing and Residential Life director Renee McDonald.

McDonald’s hire was eagerly anticipated by several coaches and administrators as she would have been the first Long Beach native in a senior athletic department role in quite some time, and she’s a capable and well-connected local operator who had been working at Big West rival UC Irvine. McDonald is also a Black woman, and was poised to be the highest-ranking Black woman in an athletic department that hasn’t had a strong history of diversity in its top ranks.

The hiring process for McDonald was announced enough that university officials had begun back-channeling with local media about photo shoots for a story about what was seen as an impending groundbreaking and game-changing hire for the school.

When Fee departed, the job listing was pulled, and McDonald is now moving to Arizona for a different job. It is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in a year that felt full of them to LBSU boosters and coaches.


The current tides of college athletics are working against schools like LBSU with NIL and television deals making the playing field less equal. But sometimes you have to go all the way to the bottom of the ocean to push off and get back above the raging waters.

Hiring a new athletic director is also an opportunity for LBSU to start a new and more adaptable plan of attack. University Spokesperson Jeff Cook said that University President Jane Conoley and Vice President Scott Apel will be presented with a small list of athletic director finalists by the end of July.

According to the job listing for the athletic director position, the new athletic director will report to the university’s treasurer/CFO, and not the university president. This is unusual in college sports and a first at LBSU.

“The university’s chief financial officer also effectively serves as chief operations officer,” Cook said. “This reporting relationship for the foreseeable future provides the necessary institutional support to Beach Athletics during a time of leadership transition and the ongoing evolution of the Division I landscape nationally.”

Cook went on to say that an increased student fee in the upcoming school year should effectively close the structural deficit in the future.

“The fee is being implemented in concert with thoughtful operating-cost reductions, new investments in athletics from each of the university’s divisions, and ongoing engagement of the program’s many philanthropic investors,” Cook added.

The facilities, namely the Walter Pyramid, are also in need of attention. Multiple events were canceled this year when the persistent leak in the Walter Pyramid gave way during heavy rain storms. The iconic facility was built in 1994 and has been leaking for years.

In March, the Daily 49er newspaper on campus reported that the university has invested over $670,000 in repairs for the roof since 2018, according to Joshua Cichuniec, the director of facilities management for Beach Building Services. They also reported that estimated leak repairs could cost as much as $55 million.

“We’re currently conducting a study of the Pyramid’s roof to better understand options for necessary repairs to prevent leaks during rainy weather,” Cook said. “Relative to other improvements, we believe that the caliber of our facilities should match the caliber of our student-athletes. We are limited not by willingness to pursue a variety of upgrades, but by available resources. We will continue to make strategic investments in our facilities and advocate for more state support, while bringing philanthropic and sponsorship opportunities to supporters and organizations who can continue to meaningfully impact our programs.”

No matter who is hired as the new LBSU athletics director, they will have a handful of key issues to address on day one of the job. What comes after that is up to them.

Will it be difficult? Yes. Is it impossible? No. But for a frustrated fan base as well as the school’s coaches and players, a new vision for a new reality is much-needed.

Additional Reporting By Tyler Hendrickson

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.