SBJ/June 18-24, 2012/People and Pop Culture

The Sit-Down: Dan Guerrero, UCLA, NACDA



Every AD at every level would indicate that the thing keeping them up at night is managing expectations.

You have to make decisions and make certain they’re consistent with your core values. Then you move on.

Athletics should be like the Hippocratic oath — do no harm. In other words, make sure you’re contributing to the institution, not doing harm to it.

Photo: COURTESY OF UCLA ATHLETICS
Tom Butters [former Duke AD] said the worst thing that ever happened to college athletics was sports talk radio. It created all these experts. They spend an hour on hold to get 15 seconds on air. Now all those fans don’t have to wait an hour. They just push a button on their computer. It has changed our field in so many ways.

The saying goes that your skills become obsolete every five years, so if you have a job 40 years, you’re constantly adapting and adjusting.

As much as people don’t want to admit that there is a business aspect to what we do, there certainly is. You’re talking about budgets of $100 million or more.

There’s no secret that some universities have hired ADs recently from the private sector. The individual might have been on the periphery of athletics in some way, shape or form, but what they bring from a business standpoint is clearly needed. We may see that become more in vogue in the future.

Establish a culture or create a culture depending on what you find, and motivate the employees. The best advice when you come into a new situation: Consume wildly.

You want people who are ambitious, and you’ve got to convey that you’re supportive of that ambition.

You have rivals in college athletics, whether it’s on the field of play or wherever, and you battle hard. We all recognize the stresses and demands on us. NACDA is one of the ways we have to engage and share and help everyone else grow. It happens at a level much greater today than ever in the past.

What’s happening from a realignment standpoint is very distressing.

Boise State and San Diego State committed to the Big East, and any rational person says that makes no sense. But I know the issues facing San Diego State and their ability to remain solvent, and they’re finding themselves looking at decisions like this. It’s not good for the enterprise. It’s led to some tough decisions.

You can sit in a Pac-12 meeting, as USC or UCLA, and know that these two schools drive whatever value is in the media contract. But we felt it was best for the conference that everyone receives the same share of revenue and be on a level playing field. That’s a decision made for the good of the whole.

These jobs are not for the faint of heart. You know criticism is going to come. Fundamentally, you just have to be at peace about your decisions, knowing they may not always be the right decisions.

At one point, my next step before I got into athletic administration was to run for public office, city council. I ultimately decided I didn’t want to do that, I didn’t want a career in the public eye. Lo and behold, I wind up at UCLA and here we go.

Typically, the AD gets too much credit when things go well and too much blame when they don’t. But we understand the demands are so much greater now. Young professionals in the business just see it as a natural evolution. It’s harder for some guys I’ve worked alongside. It’s not that fun for them.

When I talk to kids about leadership, I ask them to raise their hands if they had to baby-sit. Most raise hands. The reality is that’s the first time they had to manage something or exercise leadership. When you talk to the kid you’re baby-sitting, you tell them they can sit and watch TV and don’t move. Or you can negotiate — sit here for the next hour and then we’ll play games. It shows that there are different ways to handle situations and you learn from those experiences.

The ultimate test of leadership is, if you had no title, would people still follow you?

I make major decisions every week, but if I’m making all of them, I’m not delegating as well as I should be.

We all have blind spots. Some recognize those blind spots better than others. That’s where your staff members have to be honest.

I’ve always wanted to be a jazz pianist.

I’m a product of Teen Post, which is like a Boys and Girls Club. I was raised in a community where, in order to get anything done, you had to bond together.

I fell in love with Italy. I stayed over there almost four years. I love their culture, their way of life.

I take my iPad with me everywhere. It allows me to do what I need to do, while enjoying music and other aspects of it.

The cigar you’d most likely find in my humidor now is the Davidoff Gran Cru No. 1.

I really like a lot of the young [jazz] musicians that make the rounds in New York. One for All is one of those straight-ahead jazz bands. I love that group.

My dad wore hats and when I was a kid, he would always put a hat on me. I’ve been wearing them all my life. I don’t wear them to a lot of business functions, but I wear them socially a lot. I think they’re stylish.

I really like the Borsalino fedora. It’s made in Alessandria, Italy, right outside of Turin. It’s been the hat of choice by many famous individuals who have worn fedoras, like Sinatra, and a lot of great Italian actors.

It’s L.A. Teams have to win. The only sure thing for years was the Dodgers, [and] even they’ve taken their hits.

If you already have a robust development area with people donating, your sponsorship potential has been reached and it’s a finite marketplace with TV revenue, the only upside is in ticket sales. For most of us with empty seats, that’s where the growth potential is.

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