“It is an outstanding event that should probably be modeled in a whole host of other sports. It’s a win for both the coaches and administrators,” Bill McGillis, AD of the University of San Diego, thinks the Surefire Forum is invaluable for college baseball programs around the country. And he’s not alone. His attitude is common among the group of coaches and administrators who’ve been lucky enough to attend the past two years.
Founder of the Surefire Forum, Jason Penry, says he doing his part to make sure the right people shake hands, “We have two main goals with the forum, to prepare the next head coaches and to promote the game. We are accomplishing both.”
Penry says he modeled Surefire after the Villa 7 Basketball Conference, which has had tremendous success in the world of college hoops. After he was put on the College Baseball Foundation Board of Trustees, he wanted to give baseball programs the same opportunities.
“We are putting coaches in front of decision makers and future decision makers. The coaches have a chance to prepare for job interviews, what goes on during the search process, there really isn’t another opportunity like this,” explains Penry.
The Surefire Forum is set up to be fast-paced and immensely informative. Panels on how departments search for coaches, what they can expect in their first 90 days on the job and discussions with college AD’s from around the country are interspersed with speed networking sessions for the entire group to get to know each other.
“I had the opportunity to listen to some of the best administrators in the country share how they went about looking for a candidate for their job opening, says Kevin McMullan, associate head coach at Virginia. “It was an incredible opportunity to get the chance to sit across from some of the best athletic administrator’s in the country in one location.”
This year, 32 administrators and 32 coach signed up to attend in San Diego. Penry says the small number is critical to create the meaningful atmosphere of the Surefire Forum. He’s after real connections among baseball’s finest.
“We are especially mindful of getting more women and minorities into baseball programs. In year one we had one female attend, this year we had eight women attend, this is about opportunities for everyone,” says Penry.
“It expanded my network significantly,” says Jen Cohen, AD at the University of Washington. “Especially from a geographical standpoint. I was able to learn about the challenges and opportunities surrounding the sport, and how future head coaches are viewing those issues.”
Cohen says Surefire accomplishes the goals it has set forth, giving AD’s a chance to grow their candidate lists for future hires and providing coaches with new contacts and skills around preparing for the next step in their careers.
“If given the opportunity you have to attend it, says Justin Seely, an assistant coach at Texas A&M. “Even if you aren’t hiring or you don’t feel like you are ready to be a head coach at the moment, you can’t pass up the opportunity to learn from other Coaches and Administrators. It makes you better and more prepared to do your current job.”
“That’s what Surefire is really about, being better where you are and preparing you for what comes next,” explains Penry. “I’m so grateful for the administrators who take the time to pass on their knowledge. Also, we couldn’t have done this without Learfield, their support has made it possible.”
The next Surefire Forum will be at the University of South Carolina, January 9-10, 2020. Penry says the style of discussion panels, presentations, and speed networking will stay consistent.
“Just getting people together to discuss a sport they are passionate about does a world of good,” Penry says. “That’s what we are here for.”