Titans’ Next Athletic Director Must Build Trust, Shumard Says : Administration: He cites that as a key reason why he did not succeed at Cal State Fullerton.
The person who replaces Bill Shumard as athletic director at Cal State Fullerton will face a wide range of challenges, but the biggest one will be trying to succeed where Shumard believes he failed.
The key will be building trust and support with university President Milton A. Gordon and other top administrators. Shumard, now an assistant athletic director at Long Beach State, and some of the longtime coaches on the staff agree on that point.
Shumard thinks that’s where he fell short. He believes a loss of administrative support during his troubled three-year tenure made it difficult for him to function as effectively as he wanted.
And he believes sniping from inside his department hurt his cause, as much as the bad publicity from the courtroom defeats the university suffered when it tried to drop women’s volleyball, and fired volleyball Coach Jim Huffman. Dissension also flared when football was suspended, men’s gymnastics was dropped and scholarship funds were reduced in wrestling. The program appeared to be in a constant state of upheaval. “Cal State Crisis,” some called it.
That will be the backdrop as the pace to choose Shumard’s successor quickens next week. The six finalists are scheduled to be interviewed by members of the search committee and other groups on campus, as well as by Gordon.
The finalists include two associate athletic directors at state universities, John Easterbrook of Fresno State and Reginald Blaylock of San Diego State, and two women, Central Connecticut State Athletic Director Judith Davidson and Joanne Fortunato, a management consultant in Marlboro, N.H. The other finalists are Jack Mehl, business manager of the Rose Bowl, and William Lide, athletic director at West Chester (Pa.) State.
A replacement is expected to be named by the end of the month.
“Regardless of who is chosen, the important thing is for the institution to embrace college athletics and make the kind of commitment needed for a Division I athletic program,” said Shumard, who returned to Long Beach, his alma mater, little more than a month after resigning at Fullerton. “Those were the battles I had to fight. And it’s critical for the new athletic director to have everyone’s full support . . . " Especially, he said, the president’s.
Gordon, who is on vacation, was not available for comment.
Baseball Coach Augie Garrido, who also is an assistant athletic director and a member of the search committee, thinks the new athletic director will face “important issues” on several different fronts.
“One of the keys for the new athletic director will be to make the department more a part of the total academic program,” said Garrido, who has coached at Fullerton for 19 years, a tenure interrupted by three years at Illinois.
“The athletic director has to wear a lot of different hats. The person needs the mentality of an attorney to deal with NCAA compliance issues and other things such as that. And from a budget standpoint, the person needs to have the skills of a politician in being able to help raise money.”
But Garrido feels one of the biggest challenges will be to rally the department’s coaching and support staff at a time when state funds have been reduced.
Garrido said he thinks morale among coaches is “average at best.”
“It will be important for the new athletic director to be able to pull that group together, along with the support staff,” he said.
Lynn Rogers, who has coached women’s gymnastics at Fullerton for 19 years, also thinks improving morale within the department will be important. He remembers the years when Neale Stoner was athletic director--from 1972-79--as a time when the department’s morale was especially high.
“Neale had a way of making you feel special as a coach,” Rogers said. “As a reasonable person, you know an athletic director can’t be at all your events, but he stayed involved even when he couldn’t get to an event. I remember one Sunday morning after we had won a big meet, I wasn’t where I was expected to be, but he still tracked me down where I was to congratulate me. It made me really feel like my boss was proud of me.
“I think somehow the new athletic director has to find the common threads of the program and weave them together to get everyone really working toward common goals.”
Soccer Coach Al Mistri, who has been at Fullerton for 13 years, thinks trying to improve the entire program’s revenue should be a priority for the new director.
“All the other programs we compete against in soccer are better equipped financially than we are,” Mistri said. “The legacy of the past three athletic directors is that they couldn’t improve the resources significantly.”
Softball Coach Judi Garman, who has been at Fullerton since 1980, also believes developing revenue sources will be important for the new director.
“I think a lot of us are at the point of being worn down by the lack of resources,” she said. “We’re at a really exciting time for women’s athletics, and Cal State Fullerton can be a big part of that. What we need is someone to give us direction and support from the administration. We can be an important part of the overall university, but it seems too often we’ve been on the outside.”
One side issue of private fund raising efforts is how the money is distributed. If individual coaches solicit donations, should the money go directly to their programs or into a general fund that helps support all sports?
Shumard believed that money should go into one fund for distribution by the athletic director. Garrido, for one, thinks funds raised separately by coaches should go directly to their programs until “reasonable funding levels” for those sports are met. “How that will be handled will be an important decision for the new director,” Garrido said.
Shumard’s successor also eventually will be thrust into an evaluation of emphasis among the various sports. Shumard still firmly believes the university should make a strong commitment to basketball because of its revenue potential.
“The program generated $250,000 last year with only eight victories,” Shumard said. “UC Santa Barbara is generating a million dollars a year from basketball now, so it shows what can be done, even without a nationally ranked program.”
The new director won’t have to be as concerned about meeting gender equity guidelines at Fullerton in the years ahead, as many other universities will. “Fullerton is in good shape now from that standpoint, since there’s no football program,” Shumard said.
But there are plenty of other challenges to test the mettle of the person who is hired.