This post will probably cost me a job, eventually. That's fine.
That's the thing about people like Steve Patterson and Dave Brandon. They're the neurotic personality that compulsively searches their name on Twitter, noting every snarky quip or honest blog post or column that honestly assesses the tragically awful job they did as the heading up two of the nation's premiere collegiate athletic departments.
So, Steve & Dave, if you're reading this, write my name down. Do not hire me. We won't get along. And if we do get along, it's simply out of fear. Fear that speaking out against your poorly-thought out ideas and choice to treat individuals as if they are disposable #brand assets will cost me my own job and my own future in the industry.
At schools like Texas and Michigan, it takes remarkable talent to flame out in the spectacular manner that Patterson and Brandon did so quickly as athletic directors. Athletic directors in this business are largely afforded the one thing coaches are not -- time. A botched hiring or two, or lack of ticket sales, or student-athlete discipline matters will not get you fired in that period. Being just not very good at your job duties will not get you fired as an athletic director in 22 months. You have to be gripped by such hubris that any ability to relate to others or see an alternate perspective other than dollars and cents escapes you. You have to be so tactless and flatly stupid to not only fail to please, but actively anger your school's largest power brokers. Your communication and treatment of department employees, coaches, and athletes that they actively despise your presence.
You have to try to be this bad of a boss, this bad of an athletic director.
You have to be an asshole.
USA Today's Nicole Auerbach, a good and talented writer who I respect greatly, wrote today arguing essentially that having college athletics experience should be a prerequisite for getting a job as a collegiate athletic director. It's a fine enough premise, and one that I largely agree with: college athletics is a different beast and it requires a person skilled enough to manage all the various interests and personalities involved. And, sure, having some collegiate athletics experience can help one learn how to play the politics game of big time college sports. But there's one problem.
Plenty of assholes exist in college sports right now, many of whom will get jobs as athletic directors in the future. And there are plenty of smart, intelligent, forward-thinking individuals outside of college sports that would make wonderful heads of college athletic departments.
College athletic departments can be run brilliantly by folks with zero collegiate athletic experience. Indiana's Fred Glass is a walking testament to this fact. He was the smart and savvy lawyer behind getting a Super Bowl to Indianapolis -- which is a phrase in hindsight that would have sounded absurd in the early-to-mid-2000s. He was a slam dunk hire for Indiana, just as his former coworker Jack Swarbrick has been for Notre Dame. And both schools would be worse for wear if they'd ignored two brilliant, forward-thinking men just because they'd never worked formally in a collegiate athletic department.
Hiring and firing coaches is only a small part of a college athletic director's job. It may be the most high-profile duty, but it's assuredly a small one. And regardless of your thoughts on Tom Crean or Kevin Wilson, there is something to be said for Glass' choice to err on the side of continuity. Changing things for the sake of changing things often reeks of administrator paranoia and self-preservation in college athletics. Glass is the man who's said time an again that contracts should mean something again. He's loyal to those working for him. And if a man's biggest flaw is loyalty to his employees -- it's one I'll take seven days a week and twice on Sunday.
It's Glass' impact off the field and court that's shown his adept, unique ability to get things done as a leader and thinker. Cook Hall. The NEZ -- and eventual enclosure of the entire Memorial Stadium bowl. The much, much needed renovations to Assembly Hall. He built a baseball stadium -- and in turn created another dominant program. Football attendance is up markedly over the previous era. He took advantage of the Shoe Wars and got a big ol' dumptruck of cash backed up to Indiana University's coffers. When others across college sports were fighting tooth and nail to keep the status quo, he came out with Indiana's Student-Athlete Bill of Rights, something unique to Bloomington at the time. Football games have fireworks. Lots of fireworks. And a big flag. He's been good at his job.
But Glass' most desirable quality might simply just be being Fred Glass. He's an affable dude that feels like one of us -- a guy you wouldn't be shocked to find out in the west lot before a Hoosier football game downing Coors Light and low-quality burgers. He's an unassuming, fun dude that is seemingly great to work and happy to go the extra mile for others. That's the type of person that you'd want to run any non-profit, any sports team, any law firm, any business. Good, smart people make good bosses -- no matter their background.
So, no. Schools shouldn't stop hiring people because of lack of experience in a collegiate athletic department. Glass, Swarbrick, and Brandon's successor Jim Hackett are evidence of that.
They should just stop hiring assholes.