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California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants athletic directors' jobs tied more to academics

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FILE - This Nov. 9, 2013, file phot,o shows California wide receiver Chris Harper runninh with the ball during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif. The players are excited about practice, focused on football and eager to put last season's disappointing one-win campaign far in the past. "It's a whole different environment," receiver Harper said. "Everybody is pumped up, everybody is energetic, everybody wants to be here. There's no one on the team that I can say doesn't want to be here. Last year there were a couple of guys that weren't feeling it.” (AP Photo/Eric Risberg,File) (The Associated Press)

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the jobs of athletic directors at the state's public universities to be tied more to the academic performance of athletes.

Newsom outlined his plan in letters sent this week to University of California President Janet Napolitano and California State University system Chancellor Timothy White. He wrote that there should be aggressive benchmarks and penalties in the contracts of athletic directors depending on the department's academic performance.

Newsom's notes come at a time when there are three public schools in the state — California, Berkeley; Fresno State; and Sacramento State — searching for new athletic directors. He suggested financial stipulations based on academic performance be placed into every new athletic director's contract.

"We cannot skirt around the edges of the problem," Newsom wrote in both letters. "If our goal as a university is to educate, then we should make it a contractual priority."

In the letter to Napolitano, Newsom noted the Cal football team's past two NCAA Graduation Success Rate figures — 48 percent in 2013 and 44 percent in 2012. In the letter to White, he highlighted the Fresno State men's golf team's most recent GSR of 29 and the Sacramento State football team's GSR of 61.

The GSR measures graduation rates of Division I schools after four years and includes students transferring into the institutions. The GSR also allows schools to subtract athletes who leave before graduation, as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete if they remained.

With three searches for athletic directors ongoing in California, Newsom believes it's an opportunity to start enforcing stricter academic standards among athletic department leaders.

Cal is seeking a replacement for Sandy Barbour, who left in June. She has since been hired as Penn State's athletic director.

Fresno State announced Tuesday that Thomas Boeh is being reassigned from athletic director to an adviser to the university's president. And Terry Wanless retired as Sacramento State's athletic director June 30.

Newsom wrote in his letter to Napolitano that the changes should start with Cal's next athletic director and eventually "make this the new standard for every athletic program."

Mike Uhlenkamp, director of public affairs for the CSU system, said White received Newsom's letter and was reviewing the suggestions. A spokesman for Napolitano's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

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Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP