"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, October 26, 2012

The audacity of an Athletic Director

Recently a former NFL player with a law degree who is now an Athletic Director at a high profile school had some public comments about his high profile coach.  Larry Williams you say?  Yes, but not in this instance.  Actually it was Pat Haden at USC this week (he has done this on several occasions as have other Athletic Directors...it is part of their job to answer the media and that can lead to sticky situations dependent on where you stand.)

"Lane has had some missteps," says Haden. "The job of head coach at USC is more than just Xs and O's. You have a bunch of people you represent, from past players and alums, and it's a different place from where he's been before. We're held to a higher standard here, and some of the stuff is petty, in my estimation."

"He's definitely a work in progress.  It can be challenging, but I think we're making progress with Lane," says Haden. "And I agree with you; I think he has a big future in front of him and a long runway."

Important to note that Haden also noted he works with his coach every day to make him "better".  Sound familiar?   "I know he's got a reputation, a target on him, and I talk to him every single day about the best way to act," says Haden

First off, can you imagine the nuclear reaction by some of our fan base if Larry Williams said this about Buzz?  More importantly, are they wrong?  Comments like those of Haden's can appear foreign to someone that hasn't worked in a high profile job that is scrutinized nearly daily by sports radio, newspaper columnists, bloggers, fans, etc.  Let's face it, the manager of commodities broker isn't hitting the newspaper nor are those of someone who is marketing sports television services.  Most people are used to comments in private, or constructive criticism that isn't there for all to see.  That's not the case in the sports or entertainment world and should be the first lens applied when viewing AD and coach comments...or for that matter, coach - player comments.  It's a different world.  It's also called BEING A LEADER!  Kiffin makes more money than Haden and if continues to win, wields tremendous power.   That doesn't mean Haden doesn't have a leadership mandate to build his direct reports, keep them in check and ultimately make sure the university's mission is being followed.  Schools that let the coach have all consuming power usually elicit two things...success on the field and trouble elsewhere. 

I've had many a conversation with AD's over the years at Pac 12, Big East, ACC schools and the tough balancing act they have.  A few weeks ago I met with a Big East AD for a number of hours and we discussed this very thing.  Balancing fans expectations, most of which are straight forward and practical but intermixed with those that believe the coach is sacred and should never be challenged..ever.  On the flip side this AD also has to make sure the school doesn't get in trouble, keeps a clean perception with the rest of the alumni and the surrounding community....most of who don't care about sports, which oh by the way is the majority of people and bears out in survey after survey.  The problem is that you can't tell that to an impassioned sports fan because they don't want to hear it.  As this AD told me, the most difficult folks to deal with are those that are so emotional about it they will do anything to win.  They don't care about the perceptions or the ramifications, just win baby.  If something happens, that mess can be addressed if need be.  

No one said an AD job is easy.  Especially when, God forbid, he comes from Notre Dame and has been instructed by the leadership to make sure the school is recognized for success on the fields and courts of play and not recognized for areas that call the program into question.  He has a tough job, but plenty of schools have been successful in the approach he and the administration are taking. 

No comments: