Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friends, Domers, Countrymen...

While the current momentum of the hoops squad more than bears talking about, sometimes affairs of state must take precedence over affairs of state. This is one of those times.

Last night, WNDU brought us the momentous news that Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White would be leaving that role to take the same position at Duke University. Given that ND has had only five non-coach AD's in its history, turnover in the position is always a big deal. However, this time around, it's an even bigger deal than usual to a good number of folks, because this time, it's a true barometer of where ND is heading.

The discussions of Jumbotrons, 7-4-1, and other schemes seemed to show Notre Dame's focus was on making money rather than maintaining the quality of the brand that had stood so well for so long. Trouble was, it became difficult to determine the source of that mindset. Some people felt it was the brainchild of Fr. Malloy and Fr. Beauchamp, and yet it continued when they were gone from the scene. Others labeled Kevin White as the Svengali of Swag on campus, citing the football scheduling change as the most egregious of offenses on that score.

But now, we'll know for sure. KW is on his way out the door. Who will Fr. Jenkins, John Affleck-Graves, and the BOT name to succeed him, and, more importantly, what will that person do with regard to football scheduling, revenue generation, and the like? If it's the same-old same-old, we'll know where the truth lies.

Much will likely be made of White's ND tenure in the coming days and weeks, and I plan to leave those eulogies to others for the time being. I'm looking forward, not back, and it's time to think about the next guy in the chair.

I don't necessarily have a list of names. I'm more concerned about a list of qualities, two specifically:

A solid, confident personality. Setting the course for athletics at a place like Notre Dame is a unique position. As I've said previously, in some ways, you need to be an AD, while in others, a conference commissioner, because ND is a conference of one. Notre Dame needs to look out for its own interests while balancing the general good, and that can be a thin tightrope to walk. You're not going to do that well unless you've got the moxie to enforce your will sometimes. Notre Dame's AD needs to pull the strings, not dance to them.

An understanding and appreciation for the Notre Dame family. Among his many unfortunate malaprops, Bob Davie once used the words "people who count" when describing his support on campus. Other ND administrators have been similarly dismissive of the alumni ranks when talking about how the school and its programs operate. That's not the way to get the job done, nor is it a way to get people to support what you're doing. A while ago, having a Notre Dame alumnus in the position was seen as being too insular. Now, it seems insularity might not be the end of the world.

So who's on my list? Not sure. But I know a couple things I don't want:

1) A segregation of responsibility. The "football-only AD" idea has been floated a number of times, and I remain dead-set against it. Separating football into its own fiefdom in the Athletic Department is not a solution, and puts the school on a slippery slope. What football does has to remain in the context of the University as a whole, and vice-versa. Besides, things like scheduling games and negotiating with NBC aren't things that go on every day, every month, or even every year. Paying someone to be a full-time AD for the football program is a waste of money, and cutting Athletic Department bloat is something I hope the new person has on the top of the list on the first day of work.

2) Lou Holtz. I love and respect Lou with my whole body, and will do so until the day we're both dead. But he's a football coach, not an AD. The pining for Lou is borne of dissatisfaction with the performance of the football team in recent years, and while that's a genuine and important concern, it shouldn't lead to bad decisions.

Some names, in no particular order.

Jim Lynch, ND '67. NDN board readers should be well familiar with this name, and it is on that basis I list him first. Certainly lots of pros -- savvy businessman, confident personality, understands and appreciates how ND works, etc. But he's reportedly very happy in KC, and (if you believe the stories) has already turned the job down twice. Go after him, certainly, but it's certainly not a failure if he demurs. At the very least, you want him involved in finding the next guy.

Joel Maturi, ND '67. He certainly got good stuff done, not the least of which was MN's new football stadium, has plenty of experience as an AD, and is certainly decisive, evidenced by letting underperforming coaches go mid-season. His nabbing of Tubby Smith was certainly a coup. He also knows Ara and likely would seek his counsel on important matters. Might be enough for the top of my list, although Minnesota alums might be a little too happy to see him go for my taste.

Steve Orsini, ND '78. Moved up the ladder, with stops at UCF and now SMU. Certainly outreached his grasp when he hired June Jones to coach football there. And Notre Dame would be the next step in a progression upward. Definitely worth the phone call.

John Paxson, ND '83. Running an NBA franchise certainly requires a solid confidence, and he definitely would understand ND. No doubt his hiring would give some football fans the vapors.

Mike Bobinski, ND '79. He's been at Xavier for a while, and has made some quality hires. But Xavier doesn't have a football program, and that's a crucial hole in his resume.

Rick Chryst, ND '83. My only concern would be he's never been an actual AD anywhere, spending his career in conference management. It's a different kettle of fish. And not to be unkind, but the MAC ain't Notre Dame. This would be a multi-rung move up the ladder. Would he be ready?

Not a comprehensive list, but the one off the top of my head. May we live in interesting times, indeed.

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Anonymous nstalter said...

Muir of Georgetown . . . spent 8 years at ND. Solid and proven.

5/31/2008 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont you think the first 2 guys on the list, as qualified as they are in every way, are a bit too old to take this job?

5/31/2008 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chryst was openly campaigning for the Duke job. He apparently went to their law school.

5/31/2008 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that you left Gene Smith (ND '77) who is Ohio State's current AD off the list.

5/31/2008 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lou Holtz has the love of the university, obviously understands the demands of the football program, and is an excellent leader. Age is a problem.

5/31/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Tom Clements or Digger Phelps?

5/31/2008 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I left Smith off because I don't think he's a good fit.

Ohio State is, in my opinion, not the most ethical of programs. I believe they fix the grades of their "student athletes", and in some cases, those athletes are paid in violation of NCAA rules.

I also don't think tOSU has become all that much more "ethical" on Smith's watch. Not that he condones or initiates it, but he sure as hell hasn't cleaned it up to my satisfaction.

He also has pushed for eight home games for the Buckeyes in order to maximize revenue. That's exactly the kind of mindset we're trying to get rid of.

5/31/2008 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Bubba Cunningham ND '84 and AD at Ball State??

5/31/2008 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Mike, as always, agree with most of your comments. However, you too call ND a brand, which is a marketing term. Once an entity is classified as a brand, the slippery slope is already in play. I was involved for decades with the Disney organization. In the early eighties, my elder counterpart at Disney blubbered to me, "They've turned what Walt created into a brand." See what I mean?

5/31/2008 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I think Gene Smith's pedigree from his years as a player and coach at ND, and his subsequent rise through the athletic ranks, fits what ND needs exceptionally well...I hope he is strongly considered!

5/31/2008 11:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not having Gene Smith on the list because you don't view OSU as an "ethical" program is abusrd, can you cite examples since Gene took over?
Especially, when Maturi is on the list (his hire of Brewster and his JUCO dependent/sub 17 ACT recruiting style is a red flag). Mn is an APR mess.
In addition Orsini's hire of June Jones impressed you? Do you have any idea the types of kids he brought in @ Hawaii.

5/31/2008 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know Cryst and Maturi personally. Maturi more experience, has been through the battles and may be more prepared short term to react to the storms the new AD will inevitably encounter. Cryst though is a long term choice (and not because of his age), the kind of guy who's special, who has vision, who won't look at problems with how they could affect him or his administration, he won't look at past solutions and try to pick the best one; but rather he'll look at new approaches and how they can exceed long term, down the road. Take a closer look at the guy.

5/31/2008 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any evidence of OSU paying players (other than Troy Smith taking money from a rougue booster 4 years ago) or grade fixing (other than Clarett's rantings which were debunked by the NCAA)?
Specifically, any evidence of this during Gene's tenure?

5/31/2008 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

..your list of potential ADs show your ND alumni bias...why not go after the best man/woman for the job vs. who lived in what dorm...

...I'll always remember Kevin White for his memorable quote following the firing of willingham (which is also noteworthy for the BOT and president leaving White out of the decision)...I'll paraphrase..."willingham was a great coach...Sunday through Friday...

...who'd ever guess that willingham only recruited on Saturday?...

5/31/2008 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever gets this job is just keeping the seat warm until Jim Phillips, former assistant AD and current Northwestern AD, takes over in about 5 years.

5/31/2008 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Kustron said...

The 7-4-1 concept is great and playing the neutral game in the south(where many excellent recruits are) is even better. ND's success in the upcoming five years or so will, in part, be because of White visionary scheduling.

5/31/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Notre Dame alum, I'm scared of the idea of LIMITING ourselves to ND only people. The fact is that the best AD this school ever had was a Duke grad and long time UVA athletic director.

Everyone will bash White, and there are many things he did (and especially said) that I disagreed with. But you can't deny that under his tenure:
He hired a women's soccer coach who won a nat'l title
Men's lax got full scholies and went to the Final Four
Mens hockey has gone to the NCAA Title game
Mens soccer has gone farther than ever
Women's lax became a top 10 sport
He hired a guy that at least put ND basketball back in the tourney

I think to focus on ND only guys would be a bit naive. The fact is that ND football was great from 1986 to 1996 because of Lou Holtz....not the AD's. And our non-football sports programs were stuck in a rut for the most part during the tenures of Rosenthal and Wadsworth.

Please be willing to look OUTSIDE of ND if that's where the best candidates are.

5/31/2008 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know he's not a ND alum but Jurich has done a fantastic job at Louisville and is a class act.

5/31/2008 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doug Tammaro at Arizona State. Worked with White and also at ND during the Holtz regime.

5/31/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are only two acceptable options that will not cause rioting by alumni:

(1) an ND alum; or
(2) someone who, while not an ND alum, already loves ND with his whole heart and thinks that AD at ND is his dream job.

Anyone else would suck beyond comprehension regardless of qualifications.

5/31/2008 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger uncle albert said...

Steve Orsini has has worked his way up from the ND ticket mgr in the 80" to the Cowboys, Naval Academy, Georgia Tech, UCF, And currently at SMU. He has made some great hires and is known for raising money and buildings. He was the captain of the 77 championship team and always comes back to the University when called. If he was named the A.D. at N.D. he would die as the A.D. in lieu of going someplace else for a job.

5/31/2008 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

..."regardless of qualifications"...'s comforting to know that university "pedigree" is more important than winning...

5/31/2008 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's rarely evidence of players being paid or grade fixing. Paying players is well known to go on at most SEC schools, but do you hear anything about it? It's also been well known that Cheaty McSweatervest does not run a clean program at O$U. Are you waiting on the NCAA to give you proof? You'll be dead before that happens.

5/31/2008 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is one best choice - Rick Chryst. If you don't know him, then there may seem like others should be considered. He would be AD for 15+ years. He was a Rhodes Scholar nominee, shortstop on the baseball team at ND, went to Duke Law, worked in sports admin for UNC hoops while at Duke, has worked for the SWC, the ACC, and the Naval Aacdemy. His father was a career college football coach, and his brothers have coached in the NFL.

5/31/2008 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan Coonan. He is the AD at Santa Clara. He is an alum, class of '84. He was the assisstant AD at multiple locations. He has been involved in many other different programs in many ways. So, he understands all aspects of the job. He has made tough firing/hiring decisions (including a couple of long time coaches that were past their prime). Also, I have read that it is his dream job. He would be awesome from what I have seen him do at his other programs. He is what we need right now. He is a bit young, but we need a breath of fresh air that understands ND.

5/31/2008 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The person must understand ND. I don't measure the person by how many lacrosse victories we have. It's about football and basketball, in that order.

5/31/2008 09:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Random facts:

OSU's athletic dept. has one of the biggest budgets in the country, if not *the* biggest budget in the country. Not sure why Gene Smith would want to leave that. (I believe only Texas has a bigger budget.)

Rick Chryst's brother is offensive coordinator for the Badgers (turned down a job with the Cowboys) and his other brother is with the Carolina Panthers. His dad, George Chryst, was longtime AD and football coach at UW-Platteville and was also the person to bring Bo Ryan to Platteville and gave him his start. Chryst is a good man from good stock.

Some posts at have talked about Doug Collins already being hired by the Bulls. There has been no announcement at this time, so it would be premature to assume Paxson has hired Collins.

6/01/2008 01:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't care how many lacrosse championships, women's basketball championships, fencing championships, etc Notre Dame has won under Kevin White. Those are the things brought up in conversation when there is little positive to say about performance on the football field. Football and the likes of Rockne and Leahy helped make Notre Dame what it is today. Fotball is where Kevin White failed. I am glad he is leaving.

6/01/2008 06:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider as our next AD Larry Williams. All American lineman at ND during the Faust era, played in the NFL for several years while getting his law degree as well. After a stint in private practice, returned to ND to work in legal department. After several years, became AD at University of Portland and has done a tremendous job. He would be excellent ND AD and he "gets it" re football.

6/01/2008 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Believe Gene Smith is "put up" to do what he has to do while at OSU. I believe he would do what Notre Dame wants him to do. OSU is a money driven State School. They want revenue and a winning team, and will do anything to achieve it. However, if he came back to Notre Dame he will do what is asked of him. He will uphold the academics of the institution, create an income from sports in "non-selling out" ways, and be a GREAT NOTRE DAME MAN that he is. I hope he is considered.

I disagree with going outside of the Notre Dame family because they won't understand the Notre Dame way and will want Jumbotrons and 8 home games against army, navy, air force and hell bring on the citadel.


6/01/2008 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about promoting Missy Conboy - a ND alum with experience in our AD?

6/01/2008 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Missy Conboy doesn't have enough experience as the top person for me to be comfortable with a hire like that. I want a search and multiple candidates interviewed.

6/01/2008 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

..."I want a search and multiple candidates interviewed."...

...does that include a search for the best candidate?...or a search for the best ND alumnus candidate?...

6/01/2008 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I greatly prefer an alumnus candidate, unless there's a non-alumnus candidate whose qualifications are better by several orders of magnitude.

An alumnus is much more likely to understand why some of the things Kevin White did as AD were unacceptable.

To head off misunderstandings, I'm not saying non-alumni don't understand ND. I'm saying a non-alum is more likely to view it as a job rather than what it is.

6/01/2008 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim from Redondo Beach -- did you go to ND, or, if you didn't, are you an ND fan?

Just curious. My impression on both points is your answer would be a resounding no.

6/01/2008 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have another question here. I keep reading about the obsession everyone has with an "Alum candidate". But can anyone name a Notre Dame alum who has made a good AD? I can't.

Moose Krause was a Notre Dame legend....but it had nothing to do with his performance as AD. ND's success while he was AD had something to do with a guy named Ara.

The fact is that the most successful AD that Notre Dame has ever had is a Duke grad, who never received any degrees from Notre Dame.

This is my problem with so many of my fellow alums. We're so unwilling to look outside of the box to solve a problem. If Rockne and Leahy thought this way, we woud've never thrown the ball and we'd probably be running the Box still. ND would be the same as John Carroll.

6/01/2008 08:52:00 PM  

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