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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Athletic director search is lost

BATON ROUGE - It is unlikely, but LSU president John Lombardi and/or interim chancellor William Jenkins could reject some or all of the four finalists given to them Wednesday by the Parker "search" firm and LSU search committee.

For the good of LSU, those recommendations should be rejected, and this search needs a timeout.

One would think that a school like LSU, which has had an elite, monster, money-printing football program for most of this decade and has made major strides in other more important areas, could hire a sitting athletic director from a reputable school.

Instead, of the final four finalists for the job, only one is a sitting athletic director, and he has a checkered past. Plus he is at a place where football is merely a distraction before basketball season. The fact that Duke athletic director Joe Alleva is the only sitting athletic director on LSU's final four is a complete embarrassment to LSU, its administration, its fans, its alumni and the Southeastern Conference.

The Parker Executive Search firm should be relieved of its duties immediately and not paid $75,000. The best candidate of the four is clearly associate athletic director Herb Vincent, who has been at LSU for the most part since he was a freshman in 1979. Did it take a "search" to find him? His office is about 10 yards from outgoing athletic director Skip Bertman's office. Another candidate is LSU associate athletic director Verge Ausberry, who is right across the hall from Bertman.

The fourth candidate is Kentucky associate athletic director Rob Mullens. If you're going to hire an assistant athletic director - in other words an apprentice - it should be Vincent. Vincent would probably be a very good athletic director. Other than former chancellor Mark Emmert - the best chancellor in LSU history - there has not been a better communicator at LSU. Vincent is extremely knowledgeable of major college athletics and is tremendously respected across the SEC.

He is not a sitting AD, though, and one would think a high-priced search firm and a search committee that has been working on this for several months could find a decent sitting AD who doesn't have to answer questions about his past. Alleva was peppered with questions Wednesday about the lacrosse controversy at Duke. Did Dan Parker, CEO of the Parker search and destroy firm, not know this? Probably not.
Another recommendation by this dubious firm was former Florida State athletic director Dave Hart Jr. Key word, "former." Hart was just ousted from Florida State in light of an academic fraud case involving athletics that the NCAA is still investigating. Does the Parker firm read the paper?

And get this. Parker did not even recommend Vincent, who is clearly the best of this group and would be a find for any search firm. Parker gave five names to the search committee Monday and Vincent was not one of them. Someone on the committee asked about Vincent. They went into executive session, and Vincent emerged as a finalist.
LSU should either hire Vincent and demand its money back from Parker or take another look at the interested athletic directors rejected by Parker in addition to Vincent, and then fire Parker. Some of Parker's rejections are far better than some of the recommendations. Maybe the firm had the two reversed.

Meanwhile, LSU will try to hire a basketball coach once the athletic director circus ends. Complete and utter chaos, folks. Funny how this often happens when academia tries to play sports. Emmert was the only one at LSU who could swim in both pools.

Had LSU's Ringling Brothers Board of Supervisors listened to Emmert back in 2000, Mitch Barnhart would still be LSU's athletic director, and we wouldn't be having this conversation. Emmert wanted to hire Barnhart from Oregon State. But some board members wanted local guy Doug Moreau, a former Tiger football player and a district attorney. Only he had no experience in an athletic department. Bertman, a coach who knows coaches and how to build a program, was brought in as a compromise and has done a great job.

Had LSU allowed Bertman to stay on for a year or two more, he would already have a basketball coach hired. But politics, petty jealousies and agendas continue to rule. You're trying to do too much, Mr. Lombardi. And you're messing everything up.

It's amazing, at times it looks like LSU is really moving forward as an institution. And then with episodes like this joke of an athletic director/basketball coach search, it looks like crazy days at LSU all over again.

If Bob Brodhead was still alive, Parker would probably recommend him. Then again, Parker may not know he passed away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You hit all the nails on the head but one - Emmert was NOT a great chancellor - he failed to advance LSU academically in any meaningful way. You might get partial credit - he might have been the best LSU has had. That is a different point! How Parker & Assoc stays in business is beyond me - they are undoubtedly doing some similarly great work on the other positions LSU has hired them to fill.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

so tell us what you really think. Well written, Glenn.

11:35 AM  

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