Although I am not a fan of her politics, one can’t helped but be impressed with the involvement that University of Miami President, Donna Shalala has with her University’s Athletics Program.
Shalala recently made a change in the Athletics Directorship at Miami when long time AD, Paul Dee, was forced aside in the midst of the deterioration of Miami’s high-profile football program.
Shalala, formerly the United States’ Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, refused to interview internal candidates for Dee’s replacement; instead she demanding that Miami take their AD search national to find a fresh face and new leadership. Miami ultimately gambled on Kirby Hocutt from Ohio University. Hocutt is one of the youngest ADs in the country but spent many very successful years in one of the most well-respected athletics department’s in America at Oklahoma.
Now, check out the news out of Miami that the Hurricanes will host the 2009 McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Games.
“University of Miami president Donna Shalala said having the McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Games on campus next year will help the Hurricanes in recruiting “across the board.”
”We wanted to show off our facilities obviously, but just as important, any national visibility we can bring to the university will have our enthusiastic support,” Shalala said during a news conference Tuesday at UM to discuss the games, which will be played at BankUnited Center on April 1, 2009, and televised on ESPN. “We will not make money on this, but it will just be amazing visibility for the university.”
Shalala has a strong track record helping to build successful athletics departments.
Do you remember Wisconsin football before Barry Alvarez got there in 1990? Of course you don’t; the Badgers were one of the worst programs in the country, having attended only six bowl games in their program’s history before 1990, and only three bowl games since 1962. Alvarez was hired and retained despite numerous opportunities to leave Wisconsin primarily because of his relationship with Shalala. (And, was we have all be told numerous times in the past…isn’t it all about relationships?)
I could tell you more, but allow me to show you from this interview with Shalala from NFL.com. That’s right. NFL.com. Could you imagine Jim statusquOblinger being interviewed at NFL.com?
Of course you couldn’t. Then again, Miami went out and hired a national name to become their University’s leader. Contrast that with NC State’s ‘promotion from within’ policy. Wait a second…we tried that external hire who had ambitions to make us great, didn’t we? And the good old status-quo found a way to run her out of town in less than five years. Oh well…it was a fun period of trying to achieve and be successful while it lasted.
Schefter: Biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Shalala: Firing the athletic director (Don Morton) and the football coach at the University of Wisconsin, and then hiring Barry Alvarez. Everybody in Wisconsin told me that the school never could be a football power again.
Schefter: What was it that you liked about Barry Alvarez?
Shalala: He was hungry, and he was well organized and very disciplined.
Schefter: How many football coaches did you interview?
Shalala: A lot. I had to spend a lot of time worrying about how to bring that program into pre-eminence. We had a huge deficit in the athletic department and it required fundamental change and I was hardly an expert on the subject. But on getting fundamental change in institutions I knew something about. So I figured if I could get the right leaders, we would be fine. The first thing I did was go after a new athletic director and I talked Pat Richter into taking the job. But mostly I got to know the former athletes. Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch was a huge supporter of mine. He said, ‘You do it, and I’ll take care of the boys downtown.’
Schefter: What attributes do you look for in a football coach?
Shalala: High ethical standards, a very good manager, obviously a skilled coach, but someone who understands young people and is focused on their well being and on achieving excellence.
Schefter: How much do you know about football now?
Shalala: A lot more now than I did 20 years ago.
Schefter: To what do we credit that?
Shalala: I went to Wisconsin (as chancellor).
Schefter: And how much of an education have you gotten at Miami?
Shalala: When I came here, they were just about to hire a new coach. Butch Davis was leaving and Larry Coker was so obvious, and he was sitting there and I met him and I loved him. Football here is somewhat different, there is a culture here. So many of our players can come from the same areas. They know each other. But it’s the same skill level. A well-organized coach committed to student-athletes, with high ethical standards, works hard at what he does and knows how to win.
Schefter: How often do you go to your school’s games?
Shalala: I go to all of them. The out-of-town games, I often try to ride on the plane with the players. On those trips, everybody sleeps and I can read. Everybody thinks of these trips out as kind of rowdy affairs. They’re just the opposite. The student-athletes are either listening to music or they’re doing their homework, and the planes are very quiet, both going out and coming back.
I find this last statement pretty interesting.
Shalala goes to every game and sometimes rides with the team?! WOW!! Compare that with NC State’s Chancellor for most of the 1990s, Larry Monteith. Monteith once left early from one of the most exciting NC State-UNC football games (1990) to beat traffic. The Wolfpack won the game on a last second 56-yard field goal that set an ACC record. Similarly, Monteith told friends after he retired that the best thing about not being Chancellor was that he didn’t have to go to the athletics events anymore.
And you wonder how we got into the cycle that led us to where we are today?