For new AD hires, there is oftentimes the tendency to immediately changeover personnel, bringing-in people from the outside to staff the department. These could be people the AD worked with in prior stops or brand new people hired as an alternative to the status quo. While the desire to make these kinds of moves can be tempting to a fledgling AD, recent actions around the college athletic administration landscape suggest it might not be the best course of action.
There is a myriad of reasons why an incoming AD would want to clean house and restock the office with fresh faces. Perhaps the AD is concerned that to enact real change, personnel must be turned-over. Other ADs want to “win the press conference,” believing that a fanbase is often eager to hear that sweeping change is on the way (this tendency is especially true for struggling programs). Some new leadership might be wary of standbys from a prior administration, concerned about split loyalties and potential subterfuge. However, for most change-overs, I’d argue that patience and discretion are the better course of action.
To this point, new USC AD Lynn Swann made the argument recently that “there’s no need really to come in and say you’re going to clean house. That would be kind of a waste.” Swann’s thinking is based in the idea that the people who have been in the department before the new AD’s arrival have an immense knowledge base that would be foolish to simply throw away. “You lose your institutional knowledge from all the years people have been here. You lose the bridges and all the relationships people have from our development people with our alumni base.”
But what about situations where the department has been badly underperforming and that knowledge base is incomplete, has proven to be inconsequential, or vastly needs an overhaul? Perhaps in those few scenarios it would make sense to immediately replace certain employees, but it seems like an exceedingly rare situation that an incoming AD is certain that the connections and advice being proffered by men and women who have been on campus, interacting with student-athletes, and communicating with alums is completely useless.
For the rare, truly broken scenarios that require punitive measures or a complete re-think of an athletic department’s approach, walking in and showing people the door is perhaps necessary. However, the notion that a new AD should immediately want to shake things up, either to curry favor with the fanbase or establish office loyalty, is usually foolhardy. Change, prior to assessing and gathering the intel of the department, could destroy useful information and burn worthwhile relationships, forcing the new administration to spend countless hours reconstructing that which was there at the outset.
Francis Giknis joins College AD as a contributor after seven years of teaching and coaching throughout the east coast. Prior to writing for College AD, Francis earned an English degree from the College of William and Mary and his masters at Columbia University. Raised in a cable television-free household, he remembers binge-watching ESPN while on vacations away from home, much to the chagrin of his parents.