Anyone around major college athletics knows it's becoming more and more like a business. Like a large public company.
The NCAA, of course, is the board of directors for this Fortune 500 firm. Each university is its own entity/division (see General Motors for a similar organizational structure). The presidents of said divisions are, naturally, the various university presidents. The vice presidents of operations are the athletic directors, and the business directors, or project managers if you will, are the head coaches of individual sports.
Recently, a significant corporate restructuring transpired in the company's southeast region. Now, the Wharton School hasn't yet made a case study of this occurrence, but it still warrants examination.
Jim Donnan was the football coach at the University of Georgia. Donnan was the first football coach at Georgia to win bowl games in four consecutive years. Donnan was only the second football coach at the UGA to win eight games or more four consecutive years. Overall, Donnan won 96 D-I games in the '90s (fourth behind Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, and Joe Paterno) and 71 percent of all college games in which he was headman.
Jim Donnan was the football coach at the University of Georgia.
In a press conference on December 4, 2000, Georgia President Michael Adams announced Donnan's termination, primarily because Adams didn't "think the program is heading in the right direction" and because Donnan failed to meet "reasonably high expectations."
Oh. Let's inspect the numbers.
Well, prior to start of Donnan's tenure in 1996 Georgia hadn't won more than six games since 1992.
But since Donnan's arrival, the Bulldogs have compiled the third best Southeastern Conference record over the last five years, with a mark of 25-15. In that time span, only Spurrier of Florida (35-5) and Phil Fulmer of Tennessee (32-7) were more successful in league play.
And, if the final college football polls rank UGA #20 or higher, which should happen since Georgia drubbed Virginia 38-17 in the Oahu Bowl, this will be only second time ever that Georgia has finished in the top 20 four years straight.
So if Georgia isn't going in the "right" direction, then there are plenty of other college football programs which would eagerly like to go that way too, including UK's.
Okay then, the data doesn't seem to support Adams' decision. So, there must be an additional (and better) reason for Donnan's firing.
In his comments at same press conference, Vince Dooley, UGA Athletic Director, tried to explain: "While I personally had recommended that Coach Donnan come back next year...the consensus was that it [Donnan's firing] was in the best interest of the university...there was a lack of confidence in the program."
"Best interest of the university...lack of confidence in the program".... In light of all Donnan's accomplishments, those statements, like Adams' above, don't sound capable of holding much water.
However, combine those statements with Dooley's claim that Donnan didn't associate well with the fans. Add that to Adams' comment that he listened to "a number of constituencies" before deciding Donnan's fate, and things start making more sense.
Jim Donnan was fired for being a very good coach. Very good, but not great.
In many aspects of life, business included, greatness is subjective, difficult to define. In many regards, greatness is like poetry-hard to describe, but you know it when you see it.
In coaching, though, one would believe greatness to be much more of an objective entity. Many wins against few losses makes one great; many losses against few wins has the opposite effect. Yet although this is perfectly logical reasoning, it is flawed. For, by measure of his record alone, Donnan qualifies as a great coach. Yet certainly, he was not-for great coaches aren't canned.
So then, if wins and losses don't define greatness in athletics, or do not, at least, define greatness completely, what (else) does?
Asking "what?" may be the wrong question. Asking "who?" may be more appropriate.
At the University of Georgia, the "who" are the fans. Those same fans with which Dooley said Donnan didn't relate well. Those same fans who were no doubt prominent among the "constituencies" that Adams consulted and who set the "reasonably high expectations" that never are adjusted, never are really reasonable.
Those same fans who, in our business analogy, are the stockholders.
You now see Donnan's dilemma. Alarmingly, he seems to have been dismissed not because of a lack of successes and correct business decisions but because of a lack of love from Bulldog shareholders, the owners of the company.
Like UGA football is to Georgia, UK basketball is Kentucky's most important commodity. And shareholders here are arguably more passionate about their product than their football-breathing brethren Georgia are about theirs.
For those having some position (stake) in the basketball Cats, which is most of the Commonwealth, this basketball season, as compared to previous fiscal years, has been tumultuous and may become even more so. However, our project manager has a documented history of producing excellent sales figures (wins) and is quite capable of reproducing those results.
So give him time; adjust your earnings expectations a bit. And-like him and his style or not-don't make the mistake of letting personal preferences get in the way of good business sense, like the good people of Georgia have.
Now Watch It From Home, too
Last week, we told you that the venerated Woodsong Old-Time Radio Hour was going on the radio. Now you don't have to just listen to it - those with one of them fancy-schmancy devices called computers and a decent internet connection can catch the show too. In conjunction with new partners, and support from Insight-Digital, the live-audience, Americana format show will be the first multi-camera, weekly series to broadcast on the internet. The multi-camera webcast can be viewed each week around the world free of charge beginning January 8, 2001. Besides techies from Insight and the volunteer WoodSongs crew, Johnathon hopes to include students from local high schools and UK music classes as interns.
Those wishing to get in on the new action can go to www.woodsongs.com., or for those who like to live on the edge, you may be able to attend an actual taping by calling the WoodSongs Reservation Hotline at 859-252-8888. Tickets are only $3 each.
Holidays on Credit
Although we are always in favor of new holidays (on the off chance we might get an extra day off - "But I swear my great grandmother was half African-American, a DAR member, a John Bircher, and half lesbian!"), there are limits to our forbearance. We glanced askance at the news, announced by iPlace Inc. and several of the top financial and personal information-based companies in the US, that January 2001 is National Credit Awareness Month. After all, we already know our credit stinks, why announce that to anyone else? But it appears our fears were groundless, as it turns out the idea is designed to empower consumers to learn how to best understand, manage and protect their personal credit. Online tools will be available along with information about how to protect their financial security. The event will feature free credit reports, free credit analysis', a $25,000 "Get out of Debt" Sweepstakes, and more. Try firstname.lastname@example.org to get started on the road to Credit Awareness.
Who doesn't recollect with eerie accuracy the sound of your left tire falling into a pothole approximately the size of Commonwealth Stadium? Followed by the queasy apprehension of waiting to see of your tire is deflating? What with all the snow, it's been hard to spot the street divots until after you're on the cell phone for the tow truck. This post-holiday season, do a good turn and turn your pain into a warning for someone else. Call the Pothole Awareness line at 425-2255, and report them for the general public. Karma-wise, those you help avoid the potholes will give you ride to the garage. Think about it, won't you?
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