Bill Shumard can never say he wasn't warned.
Three years ago, he sat in a booth at Julie's restaurant across the street from USC, days after accepting the suicide mission of athletic director at Cal State Fullerton, joking about how the men's group at his parish had offered to pray for him.
That was a good one, he said. Funny stuff. So the list of headaches awaiting him could wallpaper Titan Gym inside and out. Shumard shrugged. Those headaches were not unique to Fullerton, Shumard insisted. Every college athletic program in the country, he said, faced the same kind of problems.
"I was so naive, wasn't I?" Shumard said Wednesday night, hours after tendering his resignation.
Iced tea at Julie's is a long ways away from the avalanche of litigation, either pending or already lost, piled up outside Shumard's door--a million miles removed from the signs presently posted outside Titan Gym, signs that shout with indignation:
Shumard Found Guilty of:
--Football Players Violated . . .
The Athletic Administration Must Be Stopped!
The athletic director's office at Cal State Fullerton has always been a meat grinder, chewing up many other bright-eyed and ambitious men who went before Shumard. But never before has it been vacated like this--with angry plaintiffs circling the building, dissension echoing through the halls and the incumbent announcing he's stepping aside in order to "let the healing process escalate."
Previous athletic administrations at Fullerton were judged by wins and losses--either on the field or on the ledger.
Shumard's was the first to be judged in the courtroom--and the record that escorted him out the door was 0-2.
Jim Huffman 2, Bill Shumard 0.
Huffman was the women's volleyball coach who sued Fullerton twice after Shumard scuttled his program in 1992. Huffman sued to restore his program and he sued over his own "wrongful termination." He swept Fullerton, leaving a landmark gender-equity legal decision in his wake while ringing up nearly $1.5 million in damages.
L'affaire Huffman was the critical error of the Shumard tenure, ultimately the crushing blow. Shumard came to Fullerton as a neophyte athletic director. Was his an error of inexperience? Or was he a victim of bad advice? Shumard decided to cut women's volleyball after consulting a study, coordinated by Maryalyce Jeremiah, now an associate athletic director, suggested such a move was on firm legal footing.
The study's findings pointed Shumard in the wrong direction, as Jared Huffman, Huffman's brother and attorney, reiterated Wednesday.
"I hope (Shumard's) resignation doesn't deflect responsibility and accountability away from the other people who participated in these decisions . . . " Jared Huffman said. "In my opinion, (Jeremiah) should be announcing her resignation along with Shumard."
Shumard refused to assign blame, however, saying only that the volleyball lawsuit was "certainly a test case, one that was very untested. Everybody went to school on us. If it hadn't been us, I'm sure some other school would have gotten it pretty soon."
But it was Fullerton, Cal State Shoestring, that took the hit. Already swimming in red ink, the athletic department could hardly withstand the broadside, let alone the new lawsuits being threatened by Fullerton wrestlers and former football players alleging unpaid scholarship monies.
"The volleyball thing opened the floodgates," Shumard said. "It's very trendy to sue everybody these days . . . If you don't get your way you sue.
"The athletic council advises that we're in good shape in those two situations."
Shumard managed a tired laugh.
"Of course, we're 0-1 in that kind of advice."
In fairness, Shumard presided over more than courtroom preparations during his three years at Fullerton. He oversaw the cancellation of the budget-draining Division I-A football program, a difficult but necessary decision. He fired John Sneed as men's basketball coach and replaced him with Brad Holland, another move than benefited the school's overall athletic landscape.
But as much as he sought to upgrade the basketball program--"our only real revenue generator"--Shumard banged his head against obstacles that preceded him. Rickety Titan Gym remains, in his words, "the most antiquated facility in the Big West" and Holland's annual budget of less than $400,000 still represents a third of what Nevada Las Vegas and New Mexico State spend on hoops.
Shumard's successor inherits that dilemma and so many others.
On the night he became the latest to vacate the seat, Shumard was asked if there was anyone out there truly capable of handling the job.
"I go to church every Sunday to pray to Him," Shumard quipped, "but I think He's got other responsibilities at the moment."
A few seconds pass. Then, a second thought.
"Maybe I shouldn't put it like that," Shumard said. "I shouldn't say that it's going to take a super human.
"Hey, I failed. I didn't make it. I'm stepping down. I'm sure there's somebody out there who's better than me."
The question is: Who would ever want it?
"When I got the job," Shumard said, "I was told I was the unanimous choice out of five candidates.
"No one told me that the other four pulled out."