Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown on college letters of recommendation that helped them

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom laughs before he is sworn into office by Attorney General Kamala Harris at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building Monday January 5, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom laughs before he is sworn into office by Attorney General Kamala Harris at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building Monday January 5, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Oh, the value of strong pitching, powerful friends and letters of recommendation.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, engaged in a debate Thursday over his effort to tie university coaches’ bonuses to athletes’ academic performance, said he had no bias against sports.

“I literally got into Santa Clara University exclusively because of my athletic abilities playing baseball,” Newsom said at a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents. “I don’t think I broke 1,000 on my SAT.”

Except for Gov. Jerry Brown, who provided a letter of recommendation for him, Newsom said, “there wasn’t much expectation that I’d get into any university.”

Newsom did get in, attending on a partial baseball scholarship. Sitting beside Brown, he said the governor’s old letter “was just a blanket letter of recommendation that someone probably wrote for you.”

Brown, who attended Santa Clara University himself for a year before leaving for the Jesuit seminary, said nothing of the letter he wrote for Newsom.

But earlier this month he offered his own “little secret” about how, after graduating from UC Berkeley, he got into Yale.

“I have to tell you a little secret: How I got into Yale Law School,” Brown said before swearing in two California Supreme Court justices who also graduated from Yale. “Justice (Roger) Traynor wrote a letter saying I was going to become a great legal scholar, and I always felt that that was the deciding factor that got me in.”

Brown added, “Of course, Justice Traynor was appointed by my father.”

Alexei Koseff of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this story.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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