Bumped. ICYMI - a must read especially how much we are going to be hearing about "turning corners" next few days. - BN EDs.
[Satire Alert: Sources who wish to remain anonymous have obtained a pamphlet, apparently authored by someone in UCLA's Morgan Center, the department in charge of the school's athletic programs. The pamphlet describes the overall philosophy of the Morgan Center, and sheds insight into its inner workings.]
About Turning the Corner
The secret to success in an athletic department is simple, really. It's all about turning corners. Turning corners gives the appearance of new beginnings. Turning corners distracts your critics. Turning corners maintains the status quo.
In summary, when you come to an impasse, turn a corner. When you're in doubt, turn a corner. When you're not sure which corner needs turning, simply SAY that you have turned or will turn a corner. Just find something, anything, positive about your program, point to it, and proclaim that this indicates that you have turned a corner. See how easy it is?
This guide is a brief, easy-to-follow, twelve-step program, designed to usher your athletic department into an era of comfort and ease. The corners are presented, as steps, below.1. Establish Priorities
Having priorities is important, in case you're ever asked for them. The priorities, themselves, don't much matter. Just have them, ready to present if needed.
As an example, here is the list of priorities, sorted high to low, that I, I mean we, use at the Morgan Center:
The Athletic Director
The Athletic Director's boss
Wealthy donors and wealthy, influential, compliant alumni
Wealthy people who are not yet donors
Our favorite charity: Docents without Doughnuts
Poor, non-influential alumni
2. Rely on Laurels
Don't be fooled. Many people speak derisively of relying on past laurels as "resting." We prefer the more positive connotation of "relying."
Relying on past laurels is the engine of your athletic department. It propels the bus, while you get to look out the window and sight-see. Moreover, you get to scour the landscape for potential future jobs!
Relying on past laurels means that you don't have to do anything new, bold, or creative. Actually, you don't have to do much of anything, at all. The trophies and banners that are there now will be there when you're gone. So, why venture out of the comfort of past accomplishments?
3. Don't Market Your Brand
Brand marketing creates expectations. Expectations lead to demands. Meeting expectations and satisfying demands leads to increased public participation and enthusiasm, which will lead to even more expectations and even more demands. Expectations and demands are your enemy. Don't succumb.
4. Avoid Confrontation
As with corner 3, avoiding confrontation is the hallmark of a well-run athletic department. If, for example, your highly ranked women's basketball team gets placed in a remote location for the playoffs, playing against a low-seeded opponent in what, for them, amounts to a home court, don't sweat it. Pretend you're above the fray. Just shrug and say, "Oh, well. What can I do?"
5. Good Enough Is Good Enough
When it comes to facilities, coaches, and staff, good enough is good enough. Why extend your budget or your efforts, when you can get by with average facilities and budgets? Building an on-campus football stadium is prohibitively expensive, as well as being a highly contentious issue, so don't even entertain the idea. Likewise, don't bother creating modern, exemplary football practice facilities when you can use the space for conference centers or something less confrontational. The same goes for baseball and basketball.
As for coaches, you can always get a coach, especially if your school has a nice campus and good weather and lots of laurels on which you are relying. Hire cheap, and avoid coaches who like to think for themselves. Impose assistants on your head coach. Show them who is really in charge. If a coach, for example your well-regarded women's basketball coach, threatens to leave, show her the door. There are plenty more where she came from.
6. Know Your Constituency
Don't upset your bosses. Stay in good with them by laying low.
Alumni are sometimes useful, especially wealthy, compliant ones. Otherwise, alumni are a PITA. They blog; they write letters; they circulate petitions; and, worst of all, they demand accountability and changes with your athletic department.
Students are rarely, but occasionally useful. If you have to use them, draft surveys to fit your predetermined plans and choose malleable individuals to represent your student constituency. Make them feel special. Then, use them to justify whichever course you decide to sail.
7. Communicate Only When Absolutely Necessary
Communications are your opportunity for people to trip you up and to hold you accountable. Is that what you want? Don't hold public appearances, especially when attendees might question you about your department.
If you want to give the appearance of being open and communicative, do what we do and set up a "blog" to push out your public relations. These communications will be at least 99% outgoing. If you want to appear responsive to your constituents, as though communications were two-way, set up a carefully screened and selected question of the week to help push your agenda.
8. Excellence Is Overrated
As with brand marketing (corner 3), excellence creates expectations. We have already discussed why expectations are a bad thing, so we won't rehash them here. Suffice it to say that, should you misstep and accidentally create an excellent program, people will expect you to give them that year after year. Who's the winner, then? Certainly, not you.
Note that glitz can substitute for excellence, at least for a while. In the same way that a cuttlefish uses psychedelic displays to bewilder and stun its prey, you can mollify fans with showy glitz. For example, staging a football game against Texas in the Dallas Cowboys' new, state-of-the-art stadium diverts attention from a crummy program.
9. Remember Your Purpose
As with medical doctors, the number one objective of an athletic department is to do no harm. Call it the hypocritic oath, in that by following the advice given in this guide, you will have caused great harm to your programs, long-term. But, that's long-term. Don't worry about it, because you will have parlayed your years of inaction into a position at another institution, possibly the NCAA.
10. Risks Are Unnecessary Risks
Yes, we know this statement is a bit redundant, but it expresses well an overriding philosophy. The more you put yourself out there, the more visible your decisions and actions, and therefore the more subject you are to scrutiny. Avoid risk like the plague. Stay in your cocoon. Don't make waves. Don't embarrass yourself. Let your successor suffer the consequences of risks. My, I mean our, favorite roller coaster would be one that travels on a completely flat plane. The occasional turning of corners provides all the thrills that I, I mean we, need. And, speaking of corners...
11. Turn the Corner
Turning corners gives you a chance to start over, in a way. You gain a new perspective when you change direction. Turning corners makes you appear purposeful and determined, as though you knew where you were going. Most importantly, though, turning corners gives observers the illusion that you are making progress, even if you're not.
12. You Have Arrived
Having turned all those corners, you will find yourself lodged solidly in what I like to call "Beigeland." Beige is my favorite color. Beige goes with anything, and it doesn't stand out. Beige is non-committal. Beige is the color that bold people overlook. Beige is the color of non-confrontation. Beige is the color of maple doughnuts.
We'll close with a diagram, illustrating my, I mean our, twelve-step program of turning corners.