I may be the youngest Associate AD for Development at a DI institution in the entire nation and already have a number of nice fundraising wins of the six-, seven-, and even eight-figure variety on my ledger. My challenge is getting an opportunity to take the next step on my path to becoming an AD, which I see as sport oversight. I was never a student-athlete at the collegiate level, so while I generally understand locker room dynamics & player-coach relationships, I’ve never lived it. How does an advancing administrator like myself, in an important revenue-producing role, ask his/her AD for more responsibilities in an area where I may not be a ‘natural’?
This is a great question because as I noted earlier, autonomy five programs have become highly specialized. I would recommend starting by working with a current sport administrator in your department that has multiple sports and may appreciate someone offering to assist him/her with their sports. If this is not something that would be acceptable to your AD then I would recommend going to the AD first and asking if you could assist with a sport or a small group of sports, in other words, serve as an assistant sport administrator. You would need to reassure the AD that your primary job responsibility would not suffer and in fact, I would make the case that your experience will enhance your ability to raise funds for sport programs by knowing more about their needs. I think the key is to make sure the AD knows you want to add to your responsibilities and make it very clear that you will not neglect your primary role of fund raising.
What’s your stance on dealing with agents during Head Coaching searches? Nearly every HC has an agent these days, which seems natural given escalating compensation around the industry. Some ADs take a hands-off approach and refuse to engage directly with agents. How do you approach these situations and how can both sides (the AD/university & the prospective HC) derive benefit from having an agent involved.
I have come to understand and appreciate that some high profile coaches of high profile programs feel they need an agent to represent them. I personally prefer not to have direct contact with agents representing head coaches. In the vast majority of cases, I have used the sport administrator to field inquiries from agents and to share information about our process. When it is time to talk contract, it is my strong preference to reach agreement on major deal points such as salary, term, buyout, guarantee etc. with the coach and then both of us turn it over to our legal representatives to finalize the protection language each party must have. So generally, when a Coach is using an agent then I will use our General Counsel as my agent.
As the Athletic Director of a large state institution, you regularly interface with an influential group of leaders, the University's Board of Trustees. The recent approval process for a major renovation to Razorback Stadium & pushback from some trustees was well documented in the media. How much of your time is spent building consensus in your department, across campus & throughout the state? Is learning the word “compromise” one of the biggest eye-openers for an AD?
First let me say that I believe it is very important to communicate with our Board of Trustee members in the appropriate manner. On our campus, we have made it very clear that all communications with Board members go up through our campus Chancellor to the President of the System then on to the Board of Trustee members. I also think it is important to let Board members know that anything they share with me is fair for me to share with my Chancellor and President. I firmly believe that it is in everyone's best interest to keep campus and system heads appraised of conversations and exchanges with Board of Trustee members. University of Arkansas Board of Trustee members have been outstanding to work with in my nine years. Certainly they question our plans and initiatives, that is their responsibility as a Board of Trustee member. An AD should never take offense to questions raised about intercollegiate plans. It is the AD's responsibility to prepare a plan that thoroughly and reasonably answers the Board's questions.
Certainly anyone in a leadership position should be willing to listen to thoughts and ideas and with more information arrive at a different decision. I don't think of it in terms of compromise, I think of it as seeking all the appropriate information and making the most informed decision reasonably possible and adjusting your position based on all the information available.