• Costello's out - what next for Milwaukee?

    Ignoring the fact that PantherU had the on April 14th (premium subscribers), let's go with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report that brings Costello's ouster to the public for the first time. What is to become of the athletic department, now that we're going to be searching for our fifth athletic director since June 2009? It's obvious that something isn't working. George Koonce was in way over his head and Rick Costello made some pretty poor decisions. It's obvious that something is wrong with the selection of these candidates. Today, we're going to figure out what exactly needs to happen.

    Change before change.

    For those who don't know, I operated as a student on the Athletic Board from April 2008 to June 2009. In that time, I was part of the Search and Screen Committee that sought out, selected and ultimately made the recommendation to hire George Koonce. One of our requests to Carlos Santiago in that final recommendation went unfulfilled for more than six months, but eventually we got what we wanted. I guess you could say, "be careful what you wish for."

    I believe that I have identified several of the issues that need to be ironed out before the university presses forward and hires an athletic director.

    - Major restructuring of the Athletic Board and Search and Screen Committee. In the time that I was on the Athletic Board, I can honestly say that I wish that the board could have gotten more done, or at least stayed on point. In any case, I think the type of personnel that make up the Athletic Board as well as the Search and Screen Committee need to be changed, permanently.

    Starting with the Athletic Board, you have seventeen members: five elected faculty
    members; one faculty member appointed by the Chancellor to a one-year
    term; the Faculty Athletic Representative appointed by the Chancellor for
    a term not to exceed five years; one member of the UWM Alumni
    Association, appointed by the Chancellor from a list of candidates
    submitted by the President of the UWM Alumni Association; one elected
    member of the Academic Staff; four students appointed by the Student
    Association; and, ex-officio: UWM Director of Athletics or designee,
    UWM Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs or designee, President of the
    UWM Alumni Association or designee, and the Director of Recreational Sports and Facilities or designee.

    What that comes to is seven faculty members, one alumni, one member of academic staff, four students, and a bunch of ex-officio (non-voting) members: the AD, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Alumni Association president, and Director of Rec Sports and Facilities.

    So, for all that hullabaloo, the athletic board - the people that set the process to hire head coaches and senior staff, sets university policy towards college athletics, monitors equity and a myriad of other things - has one alumni. Now, I don't have an official counter, but I'd venture a guess and say that a majority of people that attend Panther basketball games are alumni. I know that most of our largest donors are alumni. So where are these people in terms of the Athletic Board? Where are the real movers and shakers, the people in business and law that sit on boards like this across the city? Not to mention, while many members of our faculty take pride in athletics, you have a large contingent that believe athletics takes money away from academics. You probably aren't going to find those people on the athletic board, but I can say that during my time on the board there were people on it who really didn't understand athletics, and they may have also served on the Search and Screen.

    The board, which decides who is on the Search and Screen Committee, should be made up of people who care about and want to fix what's wrong with athletics. You're more likely to find that from alumni and community members who give to the program in money and spirit than you are from having a committee where more than half of the voting members are faculty.

    As for the search and screen committee, it is in the bylaws that the S&SC must be made up of majority faculty. Why? To be honest, this policy was probably set in the 1990's, when they didn't know if they'd be able to come up with the people to make up the board and committee.

    That's no longer the problem. I can tell you that the Search and Screen Committee should be made up of alumni and donors who give either money or spirit (or both) to the program in a big way - David Nicholas, Louis Weiher, Francis Deisinger, Andrew Schlesinger, Frank Kelbel, Steve King, Paul Spicuzza, Ken Peterson, hell, even myself. Why should the future of the department be in the hands of people who don't equal the passion of those who are emotionally and financially invested in the program?

    Not to mention that some on that list, specifically the big donors, have real experience identifying and selecting employees for businesses. Faculty members, though very intelligent, have expertise in teaching and research. Very few faculty members actually go through the hire/fire process that we'll be going through for the third time in three years shortly.

    - Do away with the ridiculous "collegiate athletic experience" requirement. There was nothing more annoying than when I brought up problems with the requirements for finding a new AD and was shot down. The first thing a search and screen committee does in the process is set the minimum requirements and the job announcement. In the George Koonce hiring, the minimum requirements included that the person have "collegiate athletics experience" on their resume. We received a list of 88 applicants, but it undoubtedly would have been much larger if that experience were not listed.

    Why do I bring this up? Because two of the biggest athletics programs in the country, one in our backyard and one across the lake, have had Athletic Directors that would have been weened out before the UWM Search and Screen Committee even had begun. Pat Richter oversaw the growth of Wisconsin to prominence, and until he began had never worked in collegiate athletics before, instead coming to the Badgers from Oscar Meyer. I don't think anyone in Madison is complaining - Richter led the Badgers from being a hockey school to being one of the five biggest and most successful programs in the country - the true national elite. Elsewhere, Dave Brandon had no intercollegiate athletics experience when he was hired as Michigan's athletic director. He had only spent 11 years as the CEO of Domino's (thanks for changing the ingredients, Dave!).

    The point is, having this as a minimum requirement is one of the worst things we can do. We're hamstringing ourselves, limiting our options to only those who have served in intercollegiate athletics. What I'm saying is, if you only draw from one pool, you're not going to get the kind of result you want.

    Fact is, college athletics is a business. It should be run like a business, with a business person at the helm. Someone who can do things like oversee the department and fundraise while still being able to push for the program to be successful and move forward.

    Of course, this is for the Search and Screen Committee to decide. I just want to make sure that they're well-equipped before they're given this task.


    Athletic Board Bylaws: http://www4.uwm.edu/secu/faculty/sta...oad/ByLaws.pdf

    Athletic Board Charter: http://www4.uwm.edu/secu/faculty/sta...ATHcharter.pdf