Dolson talks IU athletic director appointment

For the last 11 years, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass and his deputy, Scott Dolson, have worked side-by-side, closely weighing issues of the day.

Sometimes, it was over a morning phone call as Glass drove down to Bloomington from his Indianapolis home. A lot of times, it would be in Glass’ office, where a baseball bat sat in the corner. If he really needed to think, Glass would pick up that bat and take a few swings to loosen up his mind.

“You can tell when it was a tough situation or a challenge that we had. I’ll miss those days,” Dolson said, admitting they have always been close but maybe not so close when the bat came out.

“I’d stay enough distance away that I was safe,” Dolson continued. “We would go back and forth on things. I think the world of Fred as a leader. I learned a lot from him.”

Through the years, Dolson has been in the room while most every decision has been made, from facilities projects and fundraising initiatives to the hiring and firing of coaches. Familiarity with the job is one of the key reasons why Dolson was appointed Tuesday as the Hoosiers’ next athletic director, officially taking over when Glass retires at the end of the academic year.

In a call Thursday with reporters, the Michigan City native reminisced about what brought him to IU in the first place. He was 8 years old when the 1975 Hoosiers lost to Kentucky in the Elite Eight. He was crushed. The next year, Dolson watched the 1976 team win a national championship. “I was hooked for life,” Dolson said. “I wanted to be the next Quinn Buckner or Scott May.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t have the athletic skill to be that. But he did have a friend, Delray Brooks, who became Mr. Basketball and went to IU. Brooks encouraged Dolson to become a student manager for the team, and the fairy tale has led to here. From Bob Knight’s lead manager in 1988, to the head of the Varsity Club, to becoming a right-hand man to Glass. A lifelong Hoosier is about to lead the athletic teams he once grew up watching.

“It’s definitely a dream job for me,” Dolson said.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses as Dolson picks up the mantle. There are serious issues at play as college athletic departments deal with the aftermath of COVID-19. There were already dilemmas to be solved in regards to name, image, and likeness legislation and moves to open up player transfer rules.

Dolson hopes what he learned in those conversations with Glass, on the phone or in the room, watching the AD swing a bat, has made him more prepared to face those challenges. When these two men entered the fray in 2009, the athletic department was still reeling from sanctions to the basketball program, as well as earlier fractures caused by the sudden dismissal of Knight in 2000.

Glass emphasized academics and embraced the motto “24 sports, 1 team.” Those are values Dolson will also embrace.

“When Fred came in, I give him all the credit in the world, we’d been through a challenging time, we needed to reestablish those priorities,” Dolson said. “The coaches were all gone, we needed some consistency in the department. Fred put that together.”

As far as specific priorities for Dolson to address in his first year, he didn’t get too specific on Thursday’s call. But he certainly understands what’s important to the athletic department’s success, namely the trajectory of revenue-generating sports like men’s basketball and football.

In his current role, Dolson has direct oversight of the basketball program. He sat in on the very first interview between Archie Miller and Glass in San Fransisco.

“From that point moving forward, the thing that really has impressed me about Archie is he has a plan, he has a master plan for the program, really everything from a recruiting standpoint, from a player development standpoint, from a winning strategy,” Dolson said. “To me, I’ve been impressed with Archie with that, because he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. He really sticks to his plan.”

Three seasons in, Miller’s tenure has produced gains. Arguments may be had amongst outside observers about whether those improvements have been quick or substantial enough, but, in all likelihood, the Hoosiers would be in the NCAA tournament right now if not for the cancelation of March Madness entirely.

Dolson not only expressed confidence in Miller but also an eagerness to be at the helm when the basketball program achieves the elite status it once held.

“I said this to the search committee, maybe I shouldn’t say this, this is how I feel. I want to be the athletic director that has the responsibility of getting the basketball program back to where we want it to be,” Dolson said. “I’m excited about it. I know we have challenges, particularly the environment we’re in, roster management is probably going to be more challenging than ever with the new transfer rules potentially coming, different aspects.

“I love that and I love the challenge. I look forward to that. I’m honored to have this opportunity.”

Glass is optimistic about what his deputy can accomplish in the lead chair, as well.

In his dealings with people, Dolson can be understated. Glass said his father would probably describe him as a “Hail fellow well met,” meaning congenial and friendly. There is a reason he’s been an effective fundraiser in his years with the Varsity Club.

“He’s such a nice guy, I think some people might not realize he has tenacity. He’s a Michigan City kind of guy. When tough decisions have to be made, he steps up,” Glass said. “I think that came through with the committee and what came through to the president. He wasn’t just another pretty face, as it were. He’s a guy who can really deliver the mail.”

Dolson believes he can deliver the mail, so to speak, because he’s watched Glass do it. Or step up to the metaphorical plate and swing the bat. Whatever the analogy should be.

To use another well-used phrase, Dolson thinks he can hit the ground running.

“I can’t imagine a better situation to prepare someone to take over this type of position than I had with him,” Dolson said. “Like I said, I’ll always be grateful. I know I consider him not just one of the best mentors I’ve ever had, but additionally just a great friend and someone I have a high degree of respect for in all ways.”

9 comments

  1. One of the very best things going for IU (all programs included for both sports and non sports) is the IU Ladies Basketball program. The program sure is entertaining and has an excellent self image of what represents IU well.

  2. I agree with your post above, t. The ladies are another bright light for IU Athletics.

    As for Dolson’s selection to be IU’s AD, you have to believe that the person who is happiest and most relieved about that selection is Archie Miller. Dolson is invested in Archie’s success. Dolson was intimately involved in hiring Archie and has been his primary administrator since Archie arrived in Bloomington. Apparently they share the same vision for IU BB and Dolson buys in to Archie’s plan. With only two years remaining on his contract, I’ll bet Archie took a big sigh of relief when Dolson was named to replace Fred Glass. And with just a little bit of imagination, you can understand why IU Dolson rose to the top of the list of candidates.

    I think Dolson, because of his relationship with Archie, and the professional investment he has in Archie, gives IU BB the best chance of staying on its current trajectory and improving results in the shortest amount of time. But my question is, if Archie does not produce the desired improvement in the 2020/2021 season, what steps, if any, will Dolson take? It will be fascinating to see how the program performs next season and what that performance leads to.

  3. AM has four years remaining on his contract, not two. Nothing will happen after next year but the 5th season could be an issue if they don’t start moving up and winning.

  4. IU has many very good programs and I hope Dolson can keep them going. Football is improving but needs some new ideas about game day experience and I hope he can provide those needed changes. Dolson certainly has some big issues to deal with at the beginning of his time as IU AD. Coach Allen has worked hard to improve the program and I think his latest hires will continue the improvement. If Dolson can do several things that we have all talked about to improve attendance at the football games IU athletics will have much more money to use. I hope everyone gives Dolson a chance to show us what changes he can make to improve the athletic programs at IU.

  5. I stand corrected, BD. And you are correct. My mistake was in conflating the period after which Archie’s contract no longer includes a 100% buyout. That date is March 2022. After that, IU’s cost to buyout Archie’s contract declines considerably. I apologize for my error and thank you for providing the correct information. However, given how that buyout changes after march of 2022, next year is still critical for Archie. If the team does well, I could see IU extending his contract so as to assure recruits that Archie is secure in his job at IU. If the team is still mediocre, people will begin doing the math and weighing the cost of buying out Archie’s contract compared to the cost of IU BB remaining mediocre for another year or two.

    I hope the entire topic of Archie’s future at IU becomes moot by the end of March, 2021.

  6. Very interesting that Delray Brooks was instrumental in getting AD Dolson to IU initially. In my opinion that was one of Bobby Knight’s worst mistakes (next to refusing to get to know, and thus keep Larry Bird)! He ran off a very talented basketball player, Mr Basketball in the Hoosier State, who was an excellent student and citizen. Delray proved his worth by helping Providence to the Final Four, as Coach Knight watched from the stands!

  7. I agree again, BD. It was a huge mistake for Bob Knight to allow Brooks’ situation at IU to deteriorate to the point where he decided to transfer. I’ve always thought Knight’s demeanor/ego changed a lot after the success of ’76 and ’81. That “you’ll play my way or you won’t play here” mantra, and his ego, started to get the better of his judgement. It cost him players, like Brooks, Bird, etc. to transfer, and a bunch of high-quality recruits that simply did not want to put up with his crap. Of course, he remained a great coach and continued to be successful, but IMO Knight did not have as much success as he could have. As great as he was, Kinght’s ultimate undoing was his inability to adapt to how players and society were changing, not to mention how the media was changing. In today’s language we might argue that Knight’s basketball IQ was off the charts, but his EQ was either very low or obscured by his ego.

  8. “Kinght’s [sic] ultimate undoing was his inability to adapt to how players and society were changing, not to mention how the media was changing.” Which could be said for a lot of people. I saw it happen with my father and his business, and could include me in some respects. “In today’s language we might argue that Knight’s basketball IQ was off the charts, but his EQ was either very low or obscured by his ego.” Which, I would submit, are one and the same thing.

    During his later years at IU, Knight’s players seemed so tight- just scared to make a mistake. Most of the lads, if not all, who signed up to play for Knight were certainly aware that he would be a demanding task-master. They probably had high-school coaches who called them wimps and made ’em run steps for screw-ups. But IUBB, for them, would turn out to be another story. Playing sports is supposed to be fun. The same with playing music. Both require a great deal of dedication and work if you want to be good at them. I knew a few music majors at IU who got burned out by the demands of a world-class program. These were young people dedicated to their art. Long, long hours of practice were a given. But when the joy of a meaningful endeavor is trampled out of someone . . . .

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