With her retirement this month, Cal Poly athletic director Alison Cone moves on having left an indelible mark on Mustangs athletics. When Cone, 57, announced her decision to retire in September after officially leading the department since 2004, the university’s big news about the football program joining the Big Sky Conference was only two weeks old.
It was a natural parting point for Cone, proud to have her name associated with finding a stable home for Mustangs football, but was far from the only impactful decision she had a hand in.
Of the 14 head coaches on campus, more than half were Cone hires, including the two leading the most high-profile programs — football coach Tim Walsh and men’s basketball coach Joe Callero.
Cone, a Washington State alumna, also brought in softball coach Jenny Condon and men’s soccer coach Paul Holocher, who have revitalized both programs, with Condon leading softball to two NCAA Tournaments and Holocher, men’s soccer to one.
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Though all four of the above coaches have ties to the Pacific Northwest, Cone’s hires also include men’s tennis coach Justin McGrath, swimming and diving coach Tom Milich and volleyball coach Jon Stevenson, who’s taken the volleyball program to heights it hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years.
Cone’s retirement also caused a stir among the academic community when it was learned she received a raise of nearly $25,000 after all faculty including herself had taken a near-10 percent pay reduction in a furlough plan that lasted one year starting in June 2009.
The increase, which brought her more in line with Big West Conference peers and increases her state pension, was harshly criticized in the face of tight budget constraints.