SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/Opinion

Communication key for ADs; our newest information tools

Among the many topics at this year’s NACDA Convention in Orlando were the challenges and pressures facing today’s athletic directors on campus. When cleaning out my notes from the event last month, there were a few related themes from that subject that stood out, as well.

First, we’ve all seen the new faces, the new breed of today’s ADs, as executives with different backgrounds have come into the position, many from outside the world of intercollegiate athletics. During a panel at the convention, the conversation turned to what attributes and skill sets ADs need today. Not surprisingly, much of the focus was on communication.

“You need to be a student of 101 politics,” said Duke AD Kevin White. “We are in a highly politicized business. Every once in a while, I’ll have an interview with someone who aspires to be an associate AD or an assistant AD, and one of the first things that they tell me is, ‘I’m not political.’ If you’re not political, you’re in the wrong line of work. What we do is people on people. You’ve got to create a story, you’ve got to be able to tell it, you’ve got to be convincing, you’ve got to get all the players engaged. Every day, politics is largely what we do: internally, externally, and on and off the campus.”
 
DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto agreed that political skills are paramount, all while understanding the full scope of one’s environment. “Recognizing that you have to deal with student athletes, students, faculty, alumni, friends of the program, the city that you might live in, the community, and the politicians around the state and all the other influencers that have an impact on what you do day to day is just monumental,” she said. “You have to understand going in that it is all of that — and then some. And you have to understand what social media has done to our business: It has created this unbelievable access to us 24/7. Unbelievable access to criticize, evaluate, manipulate and make any kind of statement anybody wants to make, and you have to manage the damage control with all the various entities that are out there. You really have to be politically astute.”
 
TCU AD Chris Del Conte touched on the visible nature of the position and the criticism that comes with it. “Don’t take it personally,” he said. “Because you know you’re doing everything you possibly can and you’re making a difference. But the access today has created a situation where every little thing that you read and that you hear, it tugs at you.”

Georgetown AD Lee Reed put it simply, “Communication: You have to communicate effectively to so many different constituent groups.” He added, “Five hours of the day it’s a business. Three hours of the day it’s just negotiating and you’re a psychologist. It’s part of leadership and vision and bringing people together. You have to be able to communicate on multiple levels and you have to embrace it.”

Finally, the four ADs offered their predictions on the state of college sports in 2020.

White: “Crystal ball, 2020, we’re going to get bigger, faster, stronger. This is a great enterprise.”

Ponsetto: “My fear is that there’s going to be more federal intervention in our business. I hope that doesn’t
happen, but I fear that the more we talk about generating revenue and somebody becomes a have-not in a state or a part of the country where they think they should be a have, I think we’re going to have a huge amount of federal and state intervention in our business.”

Del Conte: “You’re going to end up having another division, just within the federation. The way the tone and the tenor of conversations are now, you can just see it coming.”

Reed: “You’ll have four people sitting here talking about very similar issues. Seventy-five to one hundred years [ago], if you just go back and read the history of the enterprise, they were talking about presidents being too involved in 1930. I think we’re going to be talking about, discussing and trying to solve the same issues that we have today.”

> ON THE GROUND, RESOURCE GUIDE LIVE: A few items from the home office, as we go dark next week, with no issue for the week of July 8.

By now, I hope you have had a chance to visit our newsroom blog, On The Ground, that launched in late March. On The Ground has served as a free area of our site that allows reporters and editors to offer perspective, observations and insights on news that we hope will be of interest to readers. It also has served as an area where we can post additional content that may not make it in the magazine or into either of our daily online publications, as well as features and videos from our conferences. We often tweet out when On The Ground has been updated, so if you aren’t following us on Twitter, please do so @SBJSBD. I hope you’ll check out On the Ground and offer up any questions, thoughts or comments.

This week, we are pleased to introduce another offering to our news and information stable. For eight years, we have published the Sports Business Resource Guide & Fact Book, a comprehensive reference directory on sports business. Our goal was to create a valuable, one-stop resource for today’s business executives, complete with company and executive listings, contacts, partner and sponsor lists, and other worthwhile information.

Now, we will cease publishing a printed book and instead are pleased to launch Resource Guide LIVE. Resource Guide LIVE is a sophisticated and comprehensive online database that puts the sports business at your fingertips. It has more than 70,000 key industry contacts — and information on how to reach them — as well as complete partner, agency and sponsor information, media relationships and client lists, along with research and data relevant to your business. I’ve been testing the online database for weeks, and I think you’ll like the way it organizes much of the company information and data that we publish in SBJ, SBD and SBD Global. I’ve kept Resource Guide LIVE open as a tab on my desktop every day and use it to quickly access names, contact information, a company’s sponsorship portfolio and leaguewide partnerships.

Our research staff, led by editor Derick Moss, will put all of its efforts into updating this online database daily, making it as real-time and accurate as any sports business resource available in the marketplace. Access will be available at a discount to SBJ/SBD subscribers, but nonsubscribers can have access, as well. So check it out, and let me know what you think. You’ll see a new tab on our home page for Resource Guide LIVE; click there and get started. Use it on your desktop at the office or on your laptop or tablet when on the road or walking into meetings. I believe you’ll find the wealth — and depth — of information invaluable.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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