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Jun
03
2015

The Next #ACC Commissioner, Part 2

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Good evening, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) sports fans. The NBA Finals and NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals began this week – and most of us are missing college football – we’re under 100 days, right? ;-)   After these two playoff series are over, the dog days of summer really start coming – but we got you covered for great ACC content over at All Sports Discussion.

Our site owner, @TalkinACCSports (Jeffrey Fann), has blogged extensively about our ACC commissioner, John Swofford, and what his legacy might be.  Swofford has been the ACC commissioner for 18 years – he is the longest-tenured commissioner and only the fourth in league history.

Last week, we started a Part 1 conversation on who might take over the reins as ACC Commissioner when John Swofford retires.

We talked about five external candidates for the ACC Commissioner position, including Michael Kelly, Michael Aresco, Brad Traviola, Jeff Long, and Jack Swarbrick.  This week, we talk about five internal ACC candidates – and by internal, we mean ACC athletic directors.  After all, as we said last week, every ACC commissioner has had substantial ties to the ACC:

Swofford has been the ACC commissioner for 18 years – he is the longest-tenured commissioner and only the fourth in league history.  Prior to his tenure as the ACC Commissioner, Swofford was the University of North Carolina Athletic Director from 1980 (when he was the nation’s youngest athletic director at age 31) to 1997.  The league’s first commissioner, James H. Weaver, served the the ACC from 1954-70 (after a period as the Director of Athletics at Wake Forest University).  Robert C. James, a former University of Maryland football player, was named commissioner in 1971 and served in that position for 16 years.  Eugene F. Corrigan assumed his role as the third full-time commissioner on September 1, 1987, and served until August of 1997 (and he had ACC written all over him).  The ACC has named a postgraduate scholarship after these the three prior commissioners – and it has become a prestigious honor.

As you can see, there is precedent for the ACC to hire within, per se.  It is common practice for the ACC to hire one of its institution’s athletic director’s as its conference commissioner.  This week, we’re going to talk about five candidates from ACC institutions that the conference Presidents might considering hiring to become the next commissioner.  Last week, we talked more about the television backgrounds and the extra elements that these professionals could bring to the ACC.  This week in Part 2 of our conversation starter, we’re going to talk more about some of the decisions that these athletic directors have made during their tenures (and their overall experience).  Here we go:

  1. Kevin White, Duke Director of Athletics – Kevin White (63) is probably the most impressive athletic director in the ACC.  Since White’s arrival, Duke has won seven national championships, including women’s tennis in 2009, men’s basketball in 2010 and 2015, men’s lacrosse in 2010, 2011, and 2013, and women’s golf in 2014, 17 (yes 17) ACC titles, and multiple top ten finishes in several sports.  Under White’s watch, the Blue Devils have also had substantial success in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup, have finished in the top ten six times, and have never finished below 17th in the rankings.  Under White’s leadership, Duke’s athletes graduate – and the teams also fair quite well in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rankings.  We are particularly impressed with White on how he gets it with football.  Specifically, under White’s tenure, Duke has gone to two consecutive football bowl games – and has 19 wins over two years. And White gets it with fundraising:  Increased financial resources are going to help the performance of all of your sports.  As part of the 2012 Duke Forward Campaign (a $3.25 Billion overall goal for the campus), included was a major goal to raise $250 million for athletics.  This $250 million would be divided in three ways, including $100 million or facility enhancements and support, $50 million for endowment income, and $100 million for operating funds.  Obviously, the big accomplishment here is the upgrade project to Wallace-Wade Stadium.  White has also served on numerous NCAA committees. The one question I have about White is – does his age come into play here?  I don’t think it should because his credentials are the best in the business.

  1. Tom Jurich, Louisville Director of Athletics –  Tom Jurich (58). Is. Awesome.  How would you like this as your first year in the ACC?  And now the news that Louisville is getting a national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament?  A team that went 25-5 in ACC baseball, won 12 series, had pitchers that got a 2.65 ERA?  Damn.  Yes, trading Maryland out worked pretty well ;-) We’re talking about someone who has led an institution through multiple conference transitions – and has been successful every step along the way. Look at this guy’s bio (I know I posted this once already, but it’s really impressive) – especially the way Louisville raised money for facilities (the best facilities in the ACC) and HIRED RICK PITINO – AND BOBBY PETRINO.  The ACC needs someone in Greensboro who knows a thing or two about raising money for its institutions, developing corporate partnerships, and making big hires  Many in the ACC wouldn’t be happy with a newcomer (particularly outside the Triangle) taking over as commissioner, but I think Tom Jurich would be an excellent pick.

  1. Stan Wilcox, Florida State University Director of Athletics – In August 2013, Stan Wilcox (55) was named FSU’s eleventh full-time Athletics Director. In his first year at the helm, the Seminoles won a National Championship in football (Jameis Winston was on that team – and was the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy), finished second in the nation in women’s soccer, advanced to the softball Women’s College World Series, and finished 12th in the Learfield Sports Athletic Director’s Cup (and are on track for another top 15 finish).  From 2008 to 2013, Wilcox was Senior Deputy of Athletics.  During his time at Duke, Wilcox’s duties included managing the day-to-day operation of the department and oversight of the football program.  In addition, Wilcox was responsible for coordinating football scheduling.   Do I think Wilcox could have handled the Jameis Winston situation better?  Yes, I do.  I’m amazed, though, that he’s been able to keep Jimbo Fisher from leaving Florida State – as well, as keeping Leonard Hamilton as the men’s basketball coach.  Wilcox would be a major hire for the ACC in that he would be the first minority hired as a Power Five conference commissioner.  Wilcox hasn’t been a full-time athletic director very long at Florida State (or any at any Power Five institution) – and by that, I mean the top guy in charge.  Some might hold that against him.

  1. Whit Babcock, Virginia Tech Director of Athletics – Whit Babcock (44) is one of the hot names on the athletic director circuit.  Babcock had a busy first year at Virginia Tech, hiring a new basketball coach in Buzz Williams, who took Marquette University to the NCAA Tournament five times in six seasons. He also signed both longtime football coach, Frank Beamer, and defensive coordinator, Bud Foster, to contract extensions, and he oversaw the launching of a new mission statement and core values for the athletics department.  Babcock also unveiled the “Pylons of Promise,” a landmark document that sets forth the university’s and the athletics department’s commitment (and we’re talking lifetime scholarships) to student-athletes during their times at Virginia Tech. This document served as Virginia Tech’s response to the changes in the NCAA governance landscape. The Pylons of Promise is based on the ideals emblazoned on the eight pylons at the Virginia Tech War Memorial Court. During his two-year stint as the Cincinnati Athletic Director, Babcock initiated a new administrative structure within the department, proposed a comprehensive vision and capital campaign for athletics facility enhancement, including an $86-million renovation and expansion to Nippert Stadium, the school’s football stadium. He also set forth a scholarship enhancement plan for Olympic sports and crafted a three-year strategic plan for all facets of the program.  As we said above, Babcock is no stranger to making the big hire.  While at Cincinnati, Babcock hired six coaches, including Tommy Tuberville.  Some will question Babcock’s decision to retain Frank Beamer (personally, I think it was the right decision).  However, if it goes south on him, it’s going to be a blackmark.  Additionally, Babcock hasn’t been around these ACC parts very long.

  1. Dan Radakovich, Clemson Director of Athletics – Dan Radakovich (56) became Clemson’s 13th director of athletics on Dec. 1, 2012.   He was one of 13 people, including one of only five FBS directors of athletics, to be named to the College Football Playoff committee.  In Radakovich’s first full year as director of athletics in 2013-14, Clemson had a strong all-around performance on the field and in the classroom. Clemson was one of just three programs nationally to win at least 11 football games, 23 men’s basketball games and 36 baseball games over the course of the academic year.  In 2014, the men’s soccer team earned an ACC title and the women’s soccer team returned to NCAA Tournament play. Additionally, the football team again continued to finished with another 10-win season.  Radakovich – like White and Babcock – gets it on facilities.  Under Radakovich’s tenure, the John & Mary Brock Football Practice Facility, which opened in 2011, and McCamish Pavilion, which opened for basketball in 2012, are two of the top facilities of their kind in college athletics.  Clemson is also redoing Littlejohn Coliseum, the Tigers basketball arena.  I like Radakovich’s focus on football, but I’ll be blunt – I strongly disagree with his decision to negotiate a long-term contract extension with Brad Brownell.  I think it was the wrong decision. While I think Brad Brownell is good coach, he can’t recruit the elite basketball players – and it’s going to take some elite recruiting to complete in this new-look ACC.  The coaching in the ACC is “through the roof good” – and you need the elite players to take that next step.  Additionally, the size of the contract buyout can limit Clemson’s ability to hire another coach in the future.  My buddy, @TalkinACCSports (Jeffrey Fann) also had some thoughts on that here.  Dan Radakovich also spent nearly seven years the athletic director at Georgia Tech where he oversaw construction of a new basketball arena, and an indoor football practice facility. He hired Paul Johnson as football coach, but his hire of Brian Gregory as head basketball coach has been suspect at best. Under his watch, Georgia Tech was put on probation and had to vacate the 2009 ACC Football Championship game..

So there you have it – five ACC athletic directors – what are your thoughts?  Anyone else you would consider?

Thanks and have a great week!!

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