Ron Rivera's NFL career has taken him around the country, but it has never prevented him from giving back. From playing for the Chicago Bears to coaching in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, Carolina and now Washington, Rivera and his wife, Stephanie, have always aimed to make contributions within their community.
"We felt that you should always give back to those who have given to you," Rivera said.
But before the Super Bowl appearances and the NFL Coach of the Year Awards, Rivera was an All-American linebacker at University of California, Berkeley from 1980-1983. It's also when he met Stephanie, a point guard on the women's basketball team. The two have been married for more than 35 years.
Rivera established the Ron Rivera Linebacker Scholarship for the football program in 2002, but him and Stephanie wanted to do more to support Cal athletes. So, the family has made a $500,000 gift to the Cal softball program, the school announced Thursday. In honor of the Riveras' generosity, the renovated facility is intended to be named the "Rivera Family Cal Softball Field."
"We gave to the women's program, softball in particular, mostly because we felt this is an opportunity to help a sport that really hasn't gotten the kind of support that it deserves for having won a national championship, for being at a competitive disadvantage," Rivera said. "So Stephanie and I felt compelled to give to our women's softball program, basically helping them build their field."
"The biggest thing is we saw a need," Stephanie added. "We always try to support Cal athletes."
The Riveras' gift will go towards the Cal Athletics' gender equity campaign, which is in the process of raising funds for new softball and beach volleyball facilities.
"We are immensely grateful for Ron and Stephanie's leadership gift to the Cal softball facility project and for their support of our Gender Equity Campaign," Cal Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said in a press release announcing the gift. "They are phenomenal examples of what it means to be a Golden Bear. We are excited to put shovels in the ground and honor the Rivera family on the field that will bear their name."
The gift idea stemmed from the Rivera family believing in gender equity and helping to provide the same opportunities for female athletes. Once completed, the facility will meet the necessary field dimension standards for Cal to be able to host NCAA Tournament games, something it has not been able to do in the past.
"There will always be that feeling that Cal has given us so much that we do need to give back to them," Rivera said.