Broncos Athletics

 
October 18, 2000

AT THE HEAD OF HER CLASS

Oct. 18, 2000

Courtesy Oakland Tribune

By Megan DeCicco STAFF WRITER

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Cheryl Levick is the first to admit she's an overachiever. Ask her about it and she'll laugh at the notion. But talk to her former boss and he'll say there's more to it than that.

"She's a super-overachiever," said Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen, who hired Levick in 1986 to increase the Pac-10 women's programs. "She works until the problem is solved and then she'll start working on the next problem. It's never over with her."

As the athletic director at Santa Clara University, Levick joins an elite group -- less than 10 percent of Division I athletic directors nationwide are women. She's the first female athletic director at Santa Clara and the first in the West Coast Conference.

"I'm challenged by this job and I'm honored to do it," said Levick. "No one's standards are higher than my own. I'm my own worst critic and my standards are real high. I measure myself and what I should be doing."

To keep up with the demands of her job, Levick estimates she works 12 hours a day, six days a week to ensure everything is done right. It's a work ethic she's carried with her for a long time.

She spent her last 12 years as the assistant athletic director at Stanford and will be honored for her work there on Oct. 23 by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators as the Division I-A Administrator of the year.

"There are a lot of people who talk about the talented No. 2," said Stanford athletic director Ted Leland. "I was always amazed, she was so diligent and happy at Stanford in the second position when she was more than talented enough to run her own program."

While the work recognition is nice there's a title that Levick enjoys just as much -- mom.

As the single mother of daughters, Heather, 19 and Melissa, 15, Levick has worked hard to build a solid relationship with her girls.

"We are incredibly close," said Levick. "We're a pretty tight threesome. I've taken them with me to sporting events since the time they could barely walk. They were taught manners at the Rose Bowl. We still talk about times when we need to use Rose Bowl manners, it's just a lot of fun."

Heather, a student at UCLA and Melissa, a student at St. Francis High in Mountain View, have followed their mom around for much of their lives. Attending athletic events and mingling with sports administrators is nothing out of the ordinary.

Kilwien witnessed Levick's interaction with her daughter and a friend at a football game. The three spent the night watching the game and enjoying each other's company.

"When I saw them at the game, they laughed and giggled throughout the whole thing," said Kilwien. "They have a lot of the same interests, and she isn't sacrificing work or family to have the job she does."

Her enthusiasm for family and life carries over into her work.

Kilwien, the former assistant athletic director at Texas Tech University, took the position at Santa Clara for the opportunity to work for Levick.

"It's easy once you talk to her to feel her enthusiasm," said Kilwien. "She is really infectious to the staff around her and the Santa Clara community. There's no question she has some tall tasks in front of her, but I can't imagine a more suited professional person."

Levick has managed to tackle some of her biggest tasks in the short time she's been with Santa Clara. She joined the University in May and in that time has hired "14.5 people", (the half is a part-timer), learned the structure and organization of the department and constructed a five-year plan for the school that includes building a tennis center, a baseball stadium, a swimming pool for water polo and recreational sports and a number of other amenities for rec sports.

While the five-year plan may sound ambitious, it's just what Santa Clara needs to stay competitive.

"If you look at universities nationally there are a lot of new facilities being built and any number of campaigns going on," said Kilwien. "Our plan is right on line with what a lot of others are doing. That's what it takes to compete -- facilities."

Levick also is leading the fund-raising drive for renovations to the Leavey Event Center (formerly the Toso Pavilion). Phase one for the center, which includes refurbishing the building, will be finished in time for the Fresno State game Dec. 13.

The strides that Levick has taken to improve the university are nothing compared to the inspiration she's offering to women.

"I've received some wonderful letters from parents and young female athletes saying that I'm a great role model," said Levick. "It really makes me proud to hear that, but it also adds a little pressure because I know I have a lot of young eyes watching me."

Hansen said girls should look up to Levick.

"We have great anecdotal evidence that young women today are fixated on soccer and women and in prominent roles," said Hansen. "It's just natural. Boys have looked at prominent males and the young women will want to do the same. She's going to be one of those who draws in other women who want to be athletic directors. We see more of that now and those people