We ran this story on departing athletic director Rick Greenspan in the paper today. It’s long, but I think worth a read. I’ll paste it after the jump for all the non-subscribers who are hastening our demise.
Rick Greenspan was introduced as Indianaâ€™s new athletic director on Sept. 3, 2004.
He became the fourth person to hold the job in a span of about four years following long-time basketball coach Bob Knightâ€™s cantankerous parting with the university.
Stability was on Greenspanâ€™s mind that day.
â€œIâ€™m honored and privileged to be here today, and for a long time,â€ he said.
Whether a tenure of just over four years counts as a â€œlong timeâ€ is part of a debate that Greenspan hopes to lend his voice to. Heâ€™s worried about the frequency with which coaches and athletic directors change jobs â€” voluntary or otherwise.
Whether Greenspan achieved stability is a debate to be waged mostly by those heâ€™ll leave behind when he steps away later this week. Greenspan announced his resignation, effective at the end of the year, in June on the same day the school revealed it had been charged with â€œfailure to monitorâ€ by the NCAA. Greenspan has vigorously denied that his compliance department failed to provide proper oversight of basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, who arrived from Oklahoma fresh off recruiting violations there, as the committee on infractions ruled.
It probably is not as revealing as his detractors will have you believe that the final two games Greenspan presided over in the marquee sports of football and menâ€™s basketball were two of the most embarrassing losses in school history. The football team lost 62-10 to Purdue to finish a 3-9 season. The basketball team lost to Lipscomb 74-69, setting off talk in some corners of the possibility of a winless Big Ten season.
That football program, though, endured the loss of Terry Hoeppner â€” a Greenspan hire â€” to brain cancer. Bill Lynch led the players through their grief and to a bowl for the first time since 1993.
That basketball program endured allegations of major violations by Sampson and his staff, then Sampsonâ€™s resignation destroyed a promising season and Tom Crean was hired to sift through the rubble.
Both will move into new facilities made possible by Greenspanâ€™s financial acumen. The athletic department reported a $6.2 million dollar surplus for the last fiscal year; its deficit was $5 million when Greenspan took over. Heâ€™s grown the annual budget by $17 million during his tenure, though it still lags behind most in the Big Ten. The major construction projects at Memorial Stadium and next to Assembly Hall are the first of their kind since the early 1970s and are essential for two sports in which recruiting has become increasingly cutthroat.
Ultimately, Greenspanâ€™s legacy hinges on the issue of culpability in the hiring of Sampson. Though e-mails obtained by The Herald-Times in April included a note from Greenspan that indicated that former President Adam Herbert and a group of trustees pushed the hiring of Sampson â€” â€œAs you and I have confidentially discussed, a couple of trustees and (the) President have more than fingerprints on this,â€ he wrote. â€œI think you are well aware of the circumstances that got us to this point.â€ â€” Greenspan has repeatedly declined to discuss the hire. Heâ€™s also chafed at the NCAAâ€™s opinion that he and his staff failed in their compliance duties after Sampson arrived.
Because Greenspanâ€™s replacement, Fred Glass, is coming from a law firm and not another athletic department, it seems unlikely that there will be immediate turnover in key positions at Assembly Hall. Greenspan moved quickly to assemble a senior staff of close confidants, including deputy athletic director Tim Fitzpatrick and associate athletic directors Grace Calhoun, Jack Garrett and Janet Kittell.
His son, Ben, has been working with the Hoosiers baseball team (he was a member of the team and is an Indiana graduate) and could stay in Bloomington.
Greenspan sat down Sunday before the Lipscomb game to discuss his plans for the future (first on the agenda: a few weeks of vacation and trips to see friends and family) and his thoughts on his career at Indiana. He was fascinating, if provocative. As always.
His legacy will be difficult to define.
And his impact inescapable.
Q: Whatâ€™s next for you?
A: Iâ€™m going to stay involved in college athletics. Thatâ€™s my passion. Thatâ€™s really all I have ever done is worked on a college campus. Iâ€™ll stay involved in some way. Iâ€™m considering two or three different things, uncertain right now what Iâ€™ll do, but I owe it to Jenny and myself and get some sun and exhale for the first time in about four years, and then have some very strong feelings that I would like to be involved in perhaps in a way of serving as a slight catalyst, perhaps for some change that I think is necessary in our business, based on a lot of things. Thatâ€™s my goal and weâ€™ll see where it takes us.
Q: Youâ€™ve talked about being an agent of change for problems ranging from rapid turnover in the coaching world to the NCAAâ€™s penchant for catching phone call violations and missing or being unable to prosecute payments to recruits and academic fraud. How do you plan on helping to solve some of these long-standing problems?
A: I donâ€™t know that you can eradicate it. I think there is a lot more good and a lot more people of honesty and integrity in this business than are given credit because I think the stink smells so bad that it overwhelms a lot of good people, very honestly. But the enterprise of college athletics I think has grown from a visibility and a financial perspective so dramatically in 15 or 20 years that I think the stakes are higher. And I think when the stakes are higher people play for keeps and I think when people are given unreasonable deadlines or unreasonable expectations for success that inevitably peopleâ€™s integrity or their wisdom gets modified and you end up with all kinds of problems. And so I think most of our business, but this is probably true in most businesses, comes down to trust. Personally what Iâ€™ve seen at the highest level is thereâ€™s a decreasing amount of trust. And Iâ€™m not a sociologist, but whether its trust from an athletic director to and from coaches or presidents to athletic directors or presidents to trustees or media members, there seems to be a great deal of cynicism and I think some of that is good and some of that is appropriate because I think it does help you become introspective and improve and I think some of it is a result of tremendous growth in salaries and certainly in a couple of sports and the very short life-spans of presidents. I think the average state college president probably lasts not more than four years and so the continuity that people are looking for, the stability that people are looking for, the ability to say weâ€™re going to take something and build it, I just donâ€™t know that thereâ€™s a lot of patience for that when a coach is getting X million dollars a year, or athletic directors are here and gone. I think the challenge is the restoration of trust, but like the most difficult of problems it doesnâ€™t come easily.
Q: Is it still fun working in athletics?
A: Itâ€™s different. As with most people as you get older, I probably have stronger feelings about what I really like and what I donâ€™t like and I think thatâ€™s probably just somewhat natural as you get older. Your experiences say â€œthis is what I like doing.â€ I probably like the work with coaches and student athletes and faculty members more than I ever have. In many ways, I find it very endearing to be in the arena with them and share in a small part their successes and try and be supportive during the times where they fail. To be in the basketball locker room after our game a couple weeks ago when they played well and beat TCU was terrific. It was just a great feeling of success even though in years past perhaps that would have been just another game. I appreciate that more and more. I find thereâ€™s greater criticism of coaches and criticism of administrative decisions frequently before there is a reasonable chance to determine an outcome. I look at the Auburn situation and I look at their hiring of a football coach (Gene Chizik). The folks that are already proclaiming disaster before thereâ€™s been a practice and I think thatâ€™s become somewhat common and I donâ€™t know that you change it. We have to do a better job â€” administrators have to do a better job â€” of how communication takes place. I think most people have a good sense that newspapers are dying and that they wonâ€™t be around indefinitely when you look at whatâ€™s taking place in printed publications be it in newspapers or (magazines). I look at the newspapers to some extent like I look at Pony Express or the telegraph. Theyâ€™re just dying. Thereâ€™s a faster way to communicate. So without being perhaps critical or cynical I think most newspapers have become a little more regionalized because they feel like thatâ€™s the place where they can specialize and I think they are also looking for ways of defining themselves and sometimes that comes from breaking a story and that, unfortunately I think, puts them in competition with the Internet. The Internet, we know, has very little in terms of journalistic ethics. There are very few requirements. Itâ€™s an unregulated mass media. So I think the whole journalistic integrity as a way of being first rather than right has changed the relationship between writers and coaches and administrators. Youâ€™ve heard it: guys taking pictures at practice and e-mailing those out. So coaches close practice more and more. The world moves so fast, we just have to find a better way of dealing with it.
Q: There seemed to be an outcry from disgruntled football fans on that unregulated Internet. What did you make of their reaction to coach Bill Lynch?
A: I donâ€™t want to sound naive about it. I read a lot but itâ€™s not normally what people would think. I donâ€™t want to be a person who sticks his head in the sand and pretends that things donâ€™t happen but I truly believe if you read too much you get anesthetized to what your decision should be because you start giving too much credit to different things. I would be disingenuous if I didnâ€™t say that Billâ€™s not the sexiest guy out there. And Iâ€™ve known that. Iâ€™ve known it since Iâ€™ve known Bill. But I think there are a lot of very successful coaches that I wouldnâ€™t view as sexy. If you know a Jim Tressel (the coach at Ohio State) and even (Penn State coach) Joe Paterno has become probably more interesting as heâ€™s taken an attitude of â€œWhat they heck, what are they going to do to me?â€ Heâ€™s become outspoken over the years. So thatâ€™s not a quality thatâ€™s particularly important to me if somebody has a strong personality to recruit. Youâ€™ve gotta be able to sell. Thereâ€™s a difference between Bill and Terry Hoeppner, and I think we were all bitterly saddened when Terry passed away. Terry, in my mind, was absolutely the right guy at the right time because he was a head coach who brought just about an entire staff with him and Terry, in the most endearing way, was a carnival barker. Heâ€™d travel the state to speak to two people in an American Legion Hall. I think Bill is every bit of the coach that Terry was. I think Bill is a guy that has terrific integrity. I think some of the criticism of Bill that I have seen is two-sided. Thereâ€™s seems to be those that feel like Bill had nothing to do with taking this team to the bowl game and that was all of Terryâ€™s team. And there are others who feel like last year was Billâ€™s team and this year obviously was his team so heâ€™s responsible for us having a declining number of wins. And I donâ€™t think you can have it both ways. I think if Bill came in and last year, for the first time in 13 years, took us to a bowl then give the guy the benefit of the doubt. We had a crappy year. If last yearâ€™s team was Terryâ€™s team, then this is Billâ€™s first year and give him the benefit of the doubt. The great thing about coaching is that the scoreboards at the end of the day and the end of the year donâ€™t lie and I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a coach out there who doesnâ€™t know thereâ€™s sand going through the hourglass and winning enough games means you turn that hourglass over and start with a new bucket of sand. I think Bill is a terrific coach, I think heâ€™s a terrific guy, I think he did a marvelous job last year of holding together a team that I know personally was very, very fragile and quite honestly even before last year even started I think he did a terrific job because Terry had been sick and in and out and itâ€™s hard for a staff to deal with from a recruiting perspective and positional changes and all the rest. Iâ€™m not sure where the chatter comes from other than I do think that some who spend all their waking hours on chat boards probably need to have a little variety in their life.
Q: Do you feel good, in general, about where the athletic department is as you prepare to leave?
A: Iâ€™m very, very disappointed that this institution had to ever deal with a major infractions case. Thatâ€™s saying it kindly. I donâ€™t think the institution deserved it. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s part of the environment or the culture of this institution as evidenced by a half a century of major-infraction-free compliance. So thatâ€™s very disappointing. I think (basketball coach) Tom (Crean) is as close to the perfect guy again at the perfect time. I think heâ€™s got great Midwest values. Heâ€™s really high integrity. Heâ€™s a terrific salesman. Heâ€™s a terrific coach. He will get this program very competitively healthy without sacrificing the integrity that I think people expect. Other than that â€” which is like the old joke â€œOther than that, Mrs. Lincoln, howâ€™d you like the play?â€ â€” I think this is a department with some very, very good people that in many cases toil in great anonymity. I think (womenâ€™s basketball coach) Felisha (Legette-Jack) is a wonderful coach and an inspirational leader. I think (baseball coach) Tracy Smith is a terrific coach. I think our new softball coach (Michelle Gardner) will do great things and is a wonderful, wonderful person. I think thereâ€™s some very good people and I think thereâ€™s some cash now to make some decisions. Itâ€™s very costly to be poor. This institution was poor for a very long time. Lack of resources contributes to making bad decisions at times. Iâ€™m pleased, excited to see the new facilities come up. Perhaps one that Iâ€™ll be the most excited about is the academic center, which gets no visibility but weâ€™re so woefully behind in facilities there that they will have a dramatic impact. I like the effort that our people put in academically. I like the higher level of accountability. And I think an athletic department is a little bit like a tomato seed and you try to pick it up with a fork and itâ€™s just always moving. Weâ€™ve got 650 athletes and 24 teams. One day is a great day and the next day is not such a great day. It wasnâ€™t such a great day a week or so ago when a couple of our football players made an egregious decision. If the allegations prove true, itâ€™s stupid. Itâ€™s below us. And, quite honestly, I know for Bill and for me itâ€™s personally hurtful because thereâ€™s no lack of education there about what the right stuff is. But I think itâ€™s been an athletic department that has grown and will continue to grow and will have to grow significantly to stay in a fighting stance against the competition in this league.
Q: Your buyout from the university gave you the right to write a book about your experience. Will you write it? Is that how youâ€™ll get catharsis?
A: Thereâ€™s been a tremendous amount of things that has happened in these years and like most administrative jobs I think some of it is self inflicted and some of it is environmental. Iâ€™ve never pitied myself. Thatâ€™s probably one of the least attractive human attributes is self-pity. I really have felt honored to be here and be the athletic director. I might write a book and then burn it. Just to get some things down. I will certainly do some writing but my interest I think is, because this has been my business, is in some way to try to make it better. I look at young professionals that were probably me 30 years ago and Iâ€™ve had a lot of conversations with my peers, athletic directors that have been in the business 30 years, about what are the challenges and how do we make sure that what most people think is the proper culture is developed or grows. Thatâ€™s exciting to me looking forward. I think Iâ€™ll do a little work there and a little writing. I certainly like being on a college campus and consider a number of faculty here good friends. Deans and provosts and people who maybe are fans you wouldnâ€™t expect. Iâ€™ve been at some very, very good schools academically at West Point and Cal and certainly Indiana and Iâ€™m inspired by the challenge of having to think on their level at times to justify why we do things. I think thatâ€™s a neat thing about being on a college campus. Itâ€™s mentally stimulating.
Q: So youâ€™re set on returning to an athletic department somewhere?
A: I think so. Iâ€™d like to. I want to. And I want to work at a place that has values and a degree of integrity that I would subscribe to. I donâ€™t think this is a revelation but I think itâ€™s becoming more critical that the relationship that you have with some of your major coaches and then the relationship that you have with your president and chancellor go further in determining whether itâ€™s a good job or not than they used to. When challenging times or crisis hit â€” whether itâ€™s the death of a coach or infractions â€” if everybodyâ€™s blinking then youâ€™ve probably got problems. You need somebody that is going to stand there with you in a model of sophisticated understanding of the complexities of this business now. Thatâ€™s important to me. Iâ€™ve had and hopefully will have opportunities to do that but Iâ€™m also excited about literally taking a few weeks and reading and writing and doing a few things I havenâ€™t been able to do.