Friday, November 9, 2012

How to become an athletic director – Part 5 – How you go about your business

Now that you have answered some questions related to your knowledge, skills and experiences necessary to become an athletic director, it is also important to determine where you fit best in the athletic landscape.

The following three questions, and your answers, will go a long way towards defining your values and how you go about your business on a daily basis.  The ability to explain these personal answers will provide specific insights about your fit as an athletic director at various types of institutions.  

1)  What is your personal philosophy related to athletics?  The answer to this question starts to narrow the field of which jobs you should consider and for which jobs you will be viable.  Developing views on academics, competing for championships, resource allocation and rules compliance shows you have the critical thinking skills necessary to become an AD.  Do you view athletics as a business or educational enterprise?  Who and what will be your primary focus as an AD?  This should be easy for you to articulate.  If not, you have to start developing your views.  

2)  What are your personal core values and what are the core values of an athletic program under your leadership?  Do your values align with the values of the institution at which you are seeking to work? I have interviewed head coaching candidates and asked “What are your core values?”  Numerous times, the individual I was interviewing was unable to answer that question.  Stumbling over something this personal shows a significant lack of introspection and is a red flag.  It is important to know who you are since you will face many difficult decisions and your core beliefs will influence the toughest choices.  

3)  What experiences can you point to that inform why you would be a good fit at a particular school? There is more to being hired as an athletic director than winning the press conference, but being able to craft a plausible, logical, and passionate explanation for the public about how you were chosen is a good way to judge if you could fit and be hired at a particular institution.  You will hopefully sound like the person that was an obvious choice – either because the institution wants to continue on the path it has been on, or it wants a significant change in direction and you provide a contrast to previous leadership.

For example, if a school is winning conference titles on a regular basis and has high academic achievement, the institution may want someone who can continue that trend.  But if an institution is facing significant NCAA violations, a background in compliance may be considered a tremendous asset.

In nearly every case, an athletic department is a microcosm of the institution of which it is a part.  Alignment with the institution’s current values, or with values they are seeking to develop under new leadership, could save you heartache and difficulty both in a search and after you arrive on a campus. 

Just as teams take on the personality of their head coach, an athletic program will take on your personality.  Your ability to answer these three questions can help a search committee and president figure out if you are a fit for their institution.   If their institutional values and yours align, you’ll be that much more viable for the position.  Being able to articulate your values, philosophy and experiences, will create separators from other candidates that are crucial in the selection process. 

Next – Internal preparation

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to become an athletic director – Part 4 – A two minute quiz

As you prepare to become an athletic director, the next thing you should do is stop and grab a pen. 

Ok, now that you have it, answer three questions honestly: 
  1. What knowledge do I have to become an athletic director?
  2. What skills do I have to become an athletic director?
  3. What experience do I have to become an athletic director?
Now that you have the answers to these three questions, you also have a plan.  

The answers to these three questions outline your skills and strengths, but more importantly point out the holes, gaps and weaknesses you need to address to become an AD.     

Perhaps you need more education.  Maybe more experience at a senior level.  Fundraising experience.  Coaching supervision.  Facility construction experience.  

Your personal list may be short or long, but everyone has holes.  Now that you know what your holes are, take a step, TODAY, to start filling one of them.  Write down the gaps, create a plan to close them, and most importantly, overcome inertia and start taking steps to achieve your goal.   

Next – Part 5 - How you go about your business



I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to become an athletic director – Part 3 – Questions to ask yourself as you look to become an AD

There are numerous questions you need to be asking yourself on a regular basis as you prepare to become an athletic director.  These questions are basic, yet important, and will begin to guide your preparation.   They are:

"What type of job are you seeking?”   Different NCAA divisions and institutions have different expectations.  Understanding the differences between Division I, Division II and Division III is important.  There are personal and financial trade-offs, quality of life questions and different lifestyles possible in each position.  Likewise, AD jobs in the NAIA and at the junior college level offer different perspectives as well.  And the role each athletic department plays within the larger context of its institution will vary widely – from an alumni driven and public relations focus to an enrollment management enhancement model and many levels in between.  Like a good pair of shoes, AD jobs come in all shapes and sizes, and its important to find the right fit.  USA Today recently published a very informative article looking at this topic and it's worth reading. 
 
“Do you have a preference for a public or private institution?”  Each type of institution brings significantly different expectations into play.  In particular, public institutions operate in a very open manner.  Many states have “sunshine laws” that make virtually anything you write or do related to your job public information.  California, Florida, Ohio and North Dakota appear to have some of the most open sunshine laws.  This dynamic also brings an additional consideration into play as you search for an athletic director opportunity – your name and application, including your actual resume, can be published just by applying for a position.  Long story short, make sure you are viable and interested before you get in the mix for a position at a public institution.  Do your homework and know that even at a private institution, there is little if anything about your life, your job, and your decision making that will be confidential as an athletic director, and much of it will find its way into the media.  

“How important is Football?”  Football is clearly the economic engine, or an anchor in some cases, that impacts an athletic program like no other.  How important the sport is for you, your understanding as well as appreciation of its importance and the attention a football program demands should be a consideration in your search for an athletic director position.  Twelve games on Saturday afternoon are just a tiny fraction of the amount of time you will dedicate to making football successful at your institution.  

“What level of salary are you seeking?” Aspiring to significant compensation as part of your AD search is common.  But as salaries go higher and higher for senior staff at BCS level schools, senior associates and other aspiring athletic directors may have to consider a more modest or lateral salary move offered by a school in a lower athletic tier for a chance to advance professionally.  Considering a specific athletic director opportunity is not just a short term financial consideration.  Achieving your first athletic director position is likely the most difficult job to obtain since you are not a "proven commodity" yet achieving this first opportunity is crucial to your ability to advance in the profession.  This may appear to be a strange notion since the assumption is that as an athletic director you will be well compensated.  But television money is completely skewing salaries throughout the athletic industry with significant trickle-down effects for upper and even mid level leadership positions.

"How important is divisional mobility?"  Once you've sorted through the above four questions, it is important to recognize that in the mind of decision makers and search committees, Divisions I, II and III are not equivalent.  Moving "down" from a BCS level program or highly regarded FBS or Division I institution is likely easier than moving "up" from Division II or III to Division I.  I put "down" and "up" in quotations because whether these are upward or downward movements is really a personal judgment based on your own values.  Asking and answering the questions above is important to you personally because once you are in an NCAA division, movement to another division while certainly possible becomes more challenging.  Institutional types are separators, both for you personally and in the eyes of each campus who is determining whether they want to make you a first-time athletic director.

Next - Part 4 - A 2 minute quiz


I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How to become an athletic director – Part 2 – Athletic director hiring trends

Athletic director hiring has experienced a number of trends and continues to go through an evolution. Initially, athletic directors were former coaches, often football coaches, who moved into the AD chair as a way to transition out of the head coaching position and insure that the football program had someone who could maintain fund raising and operational support.  While this sometimes occurs today, and there are some excellent examples of legendary coaches who have made this move, it is significantly less prevalent than it once was.   

As athletics became more expensive, the next trend was to hire people who had significant fund raising experience.  This trend has continued with the increased pressure on athletic departments to identify more funding sources in the face of state budget pressures and increasing costs.
 
The latest trend has presidents seeking leaders from significant business backgrounds, often with little or no direct intercollegiate athletic administration experience.  Examples include Michigan's hiring of pizza CEO David Brandon, USC's hiring of Pat Haden from the private sector, and the PAC 12's (PAC 10 at the time of the decision) decision to hire Larry Scott who ran a professional tennis tour.  
 
The increasing complexities of college athletics from television, internet, branding, licensing, marketing and a host of other external emphases makes this trend likely to continue into the future.  Indeed it is a trend reflected throughout higher education as university chancellors and presidents are selected less and less from the faculty and more for their fund raising, business acumen and political ties in a tenuous budgetary environment.

Higher education and Division I college athletics are both big business.  Because of this emphasis, higher education’s culture, norms, and structure are under significant pressure.  And these pressures will continue.   For those who view athletics as a business, their sponsoring institutions are even bigger businesses and that means increasing financial expectations for the AD regardless of the background the person brings to the table.  Increasing revenue and understanding the business of college athletics isn't a separator, it's an expectation.  But those expectations can vary depending on the institution and prompt some important questions you should ask yourself as you consider your path to becoming an athletic director.

Next – Some important questions to ask yourself as you prepare to become an athletic director

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled "Moving from the business office to the athletic director's chair." Since that talk a number of people have asked me for a copy of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to become an athletic director - Part 1 - Separators

I was invited to speak last year at the NACDA Convention in Orlando, Florida and present a talk entitled “Moving from the Business Office to the Athletic Director Chair”.  Since that talk, a number of people have asked me for a copies of my comments and notes.  Since these requests keep coming, I have created a multi-part series that recaps and expands on the NACDA talk.  I am far from an expert, but I hope my experiences make this series valuable and thought provoking.  Here is the first article of the series:

Blogger Seth Godin in a recent posting indicated that he believes there are only two reasons people aren’t paid more than their current salary – 1) People don’t know what they are worth or 2) The person isn't worth as much as they think they are. 

If Godin were to apply this concept to becoming an athletic director, he might suggest there are really only two reasons you haven't become an AD yet – 1) People don’t know that you are ready to be an AD, or 2) You aren't (currently) ready to be an AD as much as you believe you are.  But I would add a third reason - you may not be the fit that a particular institution is seeking.  

So how do you overcome these issues?  I had breakfast recently with Boston Celtics Assistant Coach  Kevin Eastman who suggested a great concept - "separators".  You need to create separators - specific things that distinguish you from the competition - to move up in your career.  

There are many, many talented people who are striving to become athletic directors from undergraduate students to senior associate athletic directors.  Focusing on daily responsibilities and doing them well is crucial, but going beyond those responsibilities is even more important.  Clearly establishing a personal brand – whether by serving on NCAA committees, being visible in conference meetings, or publicly sharing your views via social media in ways that are helpful can be separators.  These activities force you to think and be open to criticism from the outside.  When you say something publicly it more clearly defines who you are. Being able to articulate your views is necessary as an AD and is something you must be prepared to do when interviewing to become an AD.  

Carve a niche, and make your brand relevant – but not relevant to everyone, because that isn't possible.  Explain who you are and what you stand for and this will help you find the ubiquitous yet illusive “fit”.  Your beliefs are your brand.  And don't compromise those things just to get the job.  Conscious and purposeful expression about your view of intercollegiate athletics can be a separator.    

Start today.  The investments you make now may pay the biggest dividends later and provide the separator that lands you that next opportunity.     

Next – Athletic director hiring trends

Monday, February 6, 2012

Who is your sweetheart?

One of the all time great candies is everywhere this time of year - The Sweetheart.  They're on desks and in grammar school goodie bags.  The candy itself is reasonably tasty but that's not why it's existed for more than 150 years.  It persists year after year because of the short sayings written on the hearts - you could argue Sweethearts are the original Twitter!  Say everything necessary in two words or less.  Its hard to find someone who doesn't like reading these things.

Good fun.

If you were to design your own sweetheart and give a personalized note to each of your staff, what would you write to them?  What would you write to each coach?  Your compliance director?  Your equipment manager?  Your athletic trainers?  If you want to tell them something in a maximum of two words, what would it be?

Start thinking. 

Hopefully for most people it would be positive.  But in some cases it might not be so glowing. Take a minute, write a few out, and give them to your staff.  Regardless of whether it was a good sweetheart or a bad one, it's going to start a conversation.  And wouldn't that conversation make the person you wrote to feel better about themselves, or give clarity about what they might do to improve?  In either case, the message is.....

I care. 

So start the ball rolling.  Forward someone this article and explain what you are doing. Tweet it, post it to Facebook or just comment below but take 10 seconds to send it and use two words to say something very direct.  You might be surprised at the results. 

Good luck.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Running with scissors in 2012

Carol Brady, one of the great American examples of the stereotypical television mom always said, “don’t play ball in the house” (although she never actually said this in any episode of “The Brady Bunch.”)

And during the Christmas season, it’s hard to come up with a greater cautionary message than in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie’s pursuit of an official “Red Rider” BB Gun is squashed by his mother’s concern that “you’ll shoot your eye out”. Timeless.

Running with Scissors is the name of a popular brand of wine.  It's name suggests riskiness, danger, recklessness and conjures up images of disapproving parents. Nothing good can come of it.

I hope you can look back at the past year and recognize some moments (maybe even more than a few) when you ran with scissors – took risks and went against the conventional wisdom or the safe choice and took a path less traveled. The outcome is less important than the willingness to test your boundaries.

And before we get too far into 2012 I encourage you to spend some time thinking and talking about how you can identify opportunities to take risks and grow – professionally, personally, physically, mentally, emotionally, in your faith, and with your family.  Write them down, tape them to your mirror and in 365 days, I think you will be happy you did.

All the best for a Happy New Year from UltimateSportsInsider.com.