• #Paul4AD

    Way back on December 18th, I kicked off a hashtag campaign to try and shed light on the search for an Athletic Director at Milwaukee. We called it #Jimmy4AD, which was partly a way for me to joke about a "hey-why-not-Jimmy" scenario, and more about showing you just what kind of athletic director the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee should be looking for.

    Some things have certainly changed since then - I've expanded my plan for basketball and have abandoned any push for football - I call it "channeling my crazy" - but the hashtag needs to change as well.

    PantherU.com is endorsing Paul Plinske of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to lead the charge and bring Milwaukee Athletics forward to the future.

    I came into this older, wiser. For those who don't know, I was on the Search and Screen Committee that selected George Koonce to succeed Bud Haidet. We were wrong and we should have seen the signs - they were there. With Rick Costello, if his public presentation had been another hour, I'm not sure we would have heard anything new. He made many speeches over his year as AD, and donors complained about his broken record approach to the job.

    I was on the lookout for signs here. There were few; everyone looked great. Paul Plinske, Jim Schmidt and Amanda Braun all seem to be excellent candidates. Plinske could be great in moving up to D-I. Braun looks poised to be an outstanding AD. Schmidt already has been doing the job for decades.

    With Braun, my concern is the same as it is for all Associate AD's. They haven't sat in the top chair. What does that mean? Well, for instance, I'm worried about how much actual fundraising Braun did. Her resume talks about how she's had a hand in several big donations. So did Costello. He didn't raise much money, if any, at Milwaukee. Has Braun done the legwork, only to make sure Northeastern's AD or President could come in and close the deal? I want a closer. I'm not sure that Braun was the closer on anything. We certainly don't have time for her to learn on the job.

    That doesn't preclude her from being an AD. She will make a great one some day. During her visit she was warm, affable, and comfortable around complete strangers. I don't doubt that she'll be a closer soon. I'm just not prepared to wait.

    Jim Schmidt has definitely closed on some deals. Renovating the UIC Pavilion and building the basketball practice facility. But it didn't start as a basketball practice facility. It was originally the home of ice hockey, the dominant sport at UIC for years. It was the Flames calling card, the thing that set them apart from all the other D-I programs in Illinois. Once Jimmy Collins became head coach of the basketball program, the practice facility became the home of basketball. The Pavilion lost its hockey. And Schmidt was at the helm (or the #2) when that program came under fire.

    It was rumored that Schmidt's hands were tied. That Jimmy Collins was forced upon him, and cutting ice hockey was pre-determined without his input. I hope those are true. But still, I'd like to be able to say that he stood up to the administration on those issues, to the UI System.

    The baseball stadium came through at a very opportune time for Schmidt. With the presentation around the corner, he had a fresh multi-million dollar donation from Curtis Granderson and an MLB RBI stadium ready to go up. I question how much he had to do with it besides signing on the dotted line - I'm sure Granderson and the baseball program were the main drivers behind the plan. If it were Schmidt, he should have said so. He didn't.

    This time around, I needed to hear more. Everyone seemed so good, I needed to talk to others. I needed to do my own "reference checks," if you will. I spoke with people at UIC, UWW, Northeastern, and Green Bay (surprisingly I've got someone who worked with each of them in my rolodex). Everyone had nothing but good things to say about their affiliations. But something struck me about those at Whitewater.

    They prefer we don't hire Plinske. Why not? "Everything that is great here is because of Paul," quipped one anonymous university staffer. "When he came, we started putting it together. I don't think that's coincidence."

    They don't want Paul Plinske to leave because he's done such a great job at UW-Whitewater. But I'm calling him up to the big leagues. It's time we made the right decision: like 2010, the answer to the question is Paul Plinske. Let's hope we get it right this time.

    The truth is, Plinske is dynamic. He was able to raise over $10 million for Whitewater Athletics since 2004. He spearheaded the renovation of their athletic fields. He managed a budget nearly the size of Green Bay's with only five administrators working under him. He has no qualms about poking fun at six-and-a-half-foot tall bloggers to close public presentations.

    It shouldn't be understated that he knows UW. The same UW System that we'll need approval to build our practice facility is the same UW System that he worked over to get those facilities renovations. Here, he even has the advantage of saying "And we could make money by doing this!"

    He was sharing his talents as early as 2000, when he penned the essay "Raising friends, raising funds" for the Athletic Management publication. He's been published three more times since then, all in spaces where our athletics program has been woefully inadequate - fundraising, corporate sales and marketing. Being knowledgeable of the UW structure would allow him to cut red tape in places like marketing.

    He understands marketing, and he understands branding. In his public presentation he talked all about getting the Milwaukee brand out there, in the form of merchandise in stores and online and also in marketing. He's done a wonderful job at Whitewater; check out the Warhawk online store and you'll see what I mean.

    Plinske is the best person I've seen since Bud at hiring and retaining coaches. He's got five national championship coaches, all of which he's kept around. Two of them were his own hires, including four-time national champion Lance Leipold of the football program.

    There's no doubt about it, Paul Plinske has done an amazing job as the Athletic Director at UW-Whitewater. If Milwaukee doesn't do the smart thing and offer him the D-I job, someone else will figure it out sooner or later. And then we're really going to have egg on our face.

    I'd rather just hold the eggs and get the hire right this time.

    What are your thoughts? Head here: #Paul4AD