What Would You Do…if You Were AD?

Last Updated on July 1, 2011

*I’ve revised the prompt – you don’t have to stick to the six automatic-qualifying conferences. You can be the AD of any school in the FBS.

I’m going to start a new Friday segment called “What Would You Do?” Each week I’ll present a different question and solicit your response. This is your chance to be a part of the BusinessofCollegeSports.com!

Bill Hancock, the BCS’ top executive, recently said at a seminar, “Our business is so many people’s hobby.” Thank goodness that’s true, because it’s what keeps this website going. So, let’s play a little Fantasy College Athletic Director today.

What would you do if you were the Athletic Director of a FBS school? I hear you all complain about everything from why players aren’t paid to department’s who need student fees to balance the budget to why academics aren’t put first.

If you were an Athletic Director, what would you do first? Pay cuts for all coaches? Meet with your university’s President and urge him to join Shurtleff’s forthcoming suit against the BCS? Implement new academic eligibility rules for your athletes?

I once asked on Twitter how fans would make changes and got this response, which I think is pretty typical, from @Randletr: “oh no! You’ve got me all wrong–I just want to complain, I don’t actually want to work for a solution. #brutalhonestyTuesday”

So many of the issues you all perceive as problems seem to be too far down their respective paths to turn the train around. How do you stop escalating coaching salaries? I discussed this before, and I’ve also shown you the effect a coach like Gus Malzahn can have on a program. Can you really just scale back salaries?

What about the Great Facilities Race? I showed you yesterday how much Michigan is spending on facilities alone. Would you do only necessary repairs on your facilities and quit trying to keep up with the Joneses?

Let me know what you would do if you were Athletic Director!

P.S. You do not have to stick to the questions I asked – they’re only food for thought.

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  • Scott
    July 1, 2011

    While there are other more pressing issues to deal with as an athletic administrator, of your three choices I would begin with a tempered approach at scaling back coaching salaries.
    For as bad as people believe academic eligibility issues are in big-time college athletics an overwhelming majority succeed academically at a much higher rate then the general student (this may be attributed to how much oversight and assistance is available to a student-athlete, but it is also attributed to the work-ethic and dedication that most of those young men and women have).
    As for the BCS lawsuit issue, as an AD you’d be making career suicide joining the suit if you are already in one of the power conferences.
    Coaching salaries have escalated substantially over the last twenty years to the extent that they are putting athletic departments in a serious financial bind due to buyout issues and the need to keep up with other competitors. For the scaling back to work it would need to be done all over, which will probably not happen because there will always be universities that are able to pay more (and that paying more raises the expectation bar for those other coaches looking for jobs). In reality, coaches (with exception of the elite coaches, of which there are only a handful in each sport) are a dime-a-dozen. There is no coach on this planet that is worth $5 million/yr. It is not the coach that generates the revenue, it is the brand that is that institution.

    • Kristi Dosh
      July 1, 2011

      Thanks for starting the discussion! You do not have to stick to my questions, they were just to get people thinking.

  • Brian
    July 1, 2011


    I don’t think an AD could or should tackle most of the issues you mentioned. Those are decisions for the President and Board of Trustees to make. The AD’s job is to execute the school’s vision for athletics, not create that vision.

    That said, if I was an AD at an AQ I would focus on a standard of excellence for all my teams. There’s no reason to have a team that isn’t as good as the rest of the program. Every coach should be hired for 4 years to start with a set of benchmarks of expected success. If they can’t get there, either the coach should go or the AD needs to allocate more money to solve a problem. At top AQ schools, this means every team should be competitive in the conference and have a chance at a national title every so often.

    At a generic small school, I’d drop football. It’s not cost effective. Become competitive in other sports, especially basketball, baseball and/or hockey, and don’t waste money on all those scholarships and the Title IX balancing women’s sports with inflated scholarship counts. I’d really prefer to drop all interscholastic sports (students should participate, not watch), but not all schools can accept that.

    • Christopher
      July 7, 2011

      I agree there has to be a standard of excellence within any sport program, but I would hope that the standard isn’t based solely on wins-losses. Let’s take an AQ conference (SEC) and a small non-revenue generating sport (Tennis). The top half of the conference (six out of 12 programs) finished the 2011 season ranked in the top-25. But it would be hard to argue that Mississippi (#28) and LSU (#32) had poor seasons even though they were the #7 and #8 highest ranked teams in the conference.

      As an AD, its important to have realistic expectations from a coach and his/her program depending on whether its revenue or non-revenue generating.

      I understand your comment about discontinuing varsity athletics at the smaller schools. And I want to agree. An example: I know an AD who preaches that “athletics is the front porch of the university.” The problem is, he comes from Alabama but is now at Texas-Pan American and non-AQ conference. That “front porch” mentality may be good, but it doesn’t fit where he is at now. Athletics will never have the influence in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas that the Tide have in the entire state of Alabama. UTPA would be better served, if they dropped their non-revenue programs and were able to focus on basketball and baseball (UTPA doesn’t have football). But as an AD… he’s concerned about #1 not the best interests of the university. So he’s going to continue to beat his philosophy into the heads of his staff and the community, wasting valuable time and resources.

      As an AD you have to be willing to make the hard choices and sometimes that means (even as unpopular as it may be to some) leaving D1 for the calmer waters of D2 or D3 if its in the best interest of your university.

  • Vaughn
    July 1, 2011

    First and foremost, I believe that most casual fans and even loyal alumni do not understand the business of college athletics outside of popular media stories. Many lean on knowledge that is opinion based and not fact based…For example the salaries of coaches.

    Its true that some coaches make an absurd amount of money for coaching, specifically the revenue generating sports, football and basketball. Oklahoma’s football coach Bob Stoops makes about $3million per year, Texas football coach Mack Brown $2million per year, and UNC Basketball coach Roy Williams $1.6 million year….However, the actual amount each institution pays to its head coach is a fraction of what is advertised. The majority of a coach’s salary comes from a combination of external sources – TV and Radio deals, endorsement deals such as Nike, Coaching clinics and camps, and appearance and speaking fees. For example out of Roy Williams annual salary of $1.6 million, UNC only pays $260,000. The remainder of his salary comes from a $3.9 million bonus paid for by the Rams Club over 5 years, and Radio/TV deal that provides him $350,000 and a Nike deal that gives him $500,000.

    But to go back to your original question, what would I do first as an AD; I believe that it depends. It depends on the current situation of each institution. For example, Ohio State University is faced with a unique situation whereby a four or five pronged approach might be necessary just to ensure compliance is met. But for your “average scandal free institution”, the AD’s job is to ensure an efficient and effective oversight of all facets of the department; First and most importantly, I would continually seek to build coalitions consisting of the president, alumni, and elected officials, because they will key players in brokering athletic interests. A close second would be ensuring that my team of Associate AD’s and Assistant AD’s are dynamic in overseeing Development, Finance/Budget, Compliance, Sports Information, and Academic Services. Given those five areas, I would evaluate my staff as they are vital to the in -house success of my department. Third, I would become an active member of conference committees and NCAA committees in order to lobby for the best interest of my institution, conference, and the direction of the NCAA.

    I view college athletics as a business whereby it must be treated as such. It is no different than any fortune 500 company or your mom & pop shop…It takes strategic planning, coalition building, investment in your staff, and investment in your product (student athletes).

    Vaughn C – Aspiring AD and Doctoral Student

    • Christopher
      July 7, 2011

      I couldn’t agree more with Vaughn. As an AD your admin staff is immensely important. As an AD you want to be a big picture guy- focusing on overall department direction, fundraising, community awareness etc. Your admin staff are your sports administrators and ensure your vision is being implemented.

      One of the worst things an AD can do is reach too far down in the department (micro-manage). Quite a few AD’s don’t have meaningful coaching experience, and if they do it is only going to be in one specific coach. With that in mind and knowing that coaches in generally have healthy ego’s, the last thing they need is the AD trying to direct their recruiting and/or day-to-day ops.

      I can undertand the AD having closer relationship with Football and Basketball (maybe Baseball, depending on the university), but trust the smaller/olympic sports to your admin staff.

      The AD should stay big-picture.

  • Mike
    July 1, 2011

    1. 100% class attendance goal (with excused absences for games, etc.) for all athletes.
    2. Make graduation rate a stipulation in coaching contracts. Either as a bonus (like winning conference/BCS title) or as a trigger for contract extension. Conversely, failure to meet graduation rate criteria with no improvement means grounds for dismissal with no buyout.
    3. Institute a program to assist the vast majority of athletes who won’t go pro to get jobs in their field upon graduation.