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Volume 21 No. 1

In Depth

First-year bowl title sponsor Belk is taking a unique approach to leveraging its bowl game deal, as part of a $70 million marketing plan designed to attract a younger and less regional customer base to the 123-year-old department store brand.

SportsBusiness Journal’s annual review of gifts to bowl game participants found that on Thursday, Dec. 22, the arrival date for each school competing in the Belk Bowl, players from both teams will be taken to Belk’s flagship store in Charlotte’s upscale South Park Mall, for a private shopping spree. Belk is headquartered in Charlotte, where the bowl game will be played Dec. 27 at Bank of America Stadium.

Retailer Belk will take players on a shopping spree as part of its marketing efforts around the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
Upon arrival, players will receive a customized Fossil watch with the Belk Bowl logo imprinted on the face, and a Belk gift card with the game logo printed on the front. Players will be able to shop throughout the store, and Belk will ship for free the items to the address chosen by the players. Additional shipping will cost the player $8 per address. The school representing the Big East Conference will shop first, followed by the ACC team.

The day after Christmas, Belk will target what historically has been its prime demographic, as the coaches’ wives will head to the store for their own five-hour event, beginning with a wine/cheese/champagne reception complete with custom signage, gift cards, lunch, and cosmetic and spa services.

While the on-site shopping trip is not groundbreaking — Best Buy has hosted similar trips for the Champs Sports and Capital One bowl games in Orlando since 2007— Belk’s activation is unique because integration of a bowl title sponsor with the game’s actual participants is rare.

The Outback Bowl in Tampa, for example, receives $1.5 million annually for its title sponsorship. As part of its deal, the steakhouse chain, which is headquartered in Tampa, hosts a private welcome dinner for the participating teams, and provides a $25 restaurant gift certificate in the player gift package. The Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta also includes a restaurant gift card as part of its gift to participating teams.

Among BCS games, the players competing in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio will have the opportunity to choose a Vizio 26-inch LED LCD HDTV or Vizio eight-inch Wi-Fi/Bluetooth tablet, items that will be part of an overall gift suite. Gift suites are rooms hosted by the bowl committee, operated by Carrollton, Texas-based Performance Award Center, and set up at the team hotel or a school campus. Players, coaches and VIPs are given checklists to choose their game memorabilia from a variety of items, including Sony electronics, Trek mountain bikes, Lane recliners, Ogio backpacks and Apple iPods. At least 14 of this year’s 35 bowl games will offer gift suites to players.

The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 participants per school. Schools can, and almost

Players enjoy a meal prior to the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
Photo by: Brenda Nixon / Outback Bowl
always do, purchase additional packages that they can distribute to participants beyond that 125 limit. In addition, participants can receive awards worth up to $400 from the school and up to $400 from the conference for postseason play, covering both conference title games and any bowl game. Each limit represents an increase of $50 over last year.

Vendors involved in the bowl game niche all say business is booming. Jon Cooperstein, who runs Performance Award Center’s sports division, said schools that participate in the suites at a bowl game often take the concept back to campus and replicate them for other sports, giving vendors new opportunities for revenue.

For example, Oakley, in its 21st year as a provider, is providing products to players in five bowls this season, and has seen a steady trend of growth in its overall college business over the last five years, according to a company spokesman. In the upcoming bowl season, Oakley eyewear also will be included in a VIP gift suite at a sixth bowl.

Timely Watch Co. continues to be a favorite among committee executives, appearing in eight gift packages again this season.

As for Belk, the retailer has 303 stores spread across 16 states, primarily in the Southeast. One quarter of those stores are in North Carolina. The company introduced a new logo last October, the first change since 1967.

Until now, the company’s sports marketing portfolio has been decidedly Southern in flavor. Belk also sponsors the MLB Atlanta Braves, NFL Carolina Panthers, NHL Carolina Hurricanes, the Charlotte-based NASCAR Hall of Fame, the ACC, and athletic programs at Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Alabama, Virginia and West Virginia.

The company hopes this year’s prime-time ESPN telecast will provide the national exposure it desires. Belk has purchased a media buy through ESPN that will air during the network’s annual Bowl Week coverage, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, said Jon Pollack, Belk’s executive vice president of sales promotion, marketing and e-commerce. This will be the first time Belk has made a major national TV buy.

Prior to last year’s game, which aired at noon on New Year’s Eve as the first of four bowl games televised that day, the game had aired at prime time and averaged more than 5.5 million viewers during the previous three years. The bowl game was sponsored then by Meineke Car Care.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.
Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Oakley Eyepatch 2, Oakley beanie, New Era cap, Oakley Flak Pack 3.0, pen with box, Christmas ornament

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Saturday, Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, North End winter coat, Kombi gloves, Nike beanie, Ogio Fugitive backpack, Big Game souvenir football

R+L Carriers
New Orleans
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Samsung Galaxy tablet
Saturday, Dec. 17, 9 p.m., ESPN
Samsung Galaxy tablet

Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tuesday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m., ESPN
Sony PlayStation 3, Oakley Eyepatch 2, Oakley backpack duffel, mini-helmet

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 8 p.m., ESPN
Best Buy gift card*, Tourneau watch, hooded sweatshirt, FlexFit cap

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas
Thursday, Dec. 22, 8 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, cap

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

Oakley Eyepatch sunglasses
Photo by: Oakley

Saturday, Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN
Oakley sunglasses, Aloha shirt, Pro Athletics custom beach shorts, Oakley T-shirt, performance wear, cap or visor, backpack, beach towels, bowl calendar, playing cards

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
Monday, Dec. 26, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, New Era cap, commemorative football

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Ford Field, Detroit
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Timely Watch Co. watch, leather duffel bag, commemorative football

Belk Bowl
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 8 p.m., ESPN
Estimated $400 shopping trip to Belk’s flagship store in Charlotte, Fossil watch

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, Dec. 28, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple iPod nano, Deuce watch, LunaTik wristband (to hold iPod), beanie, Nike backpack

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Wednesday, Dec. 28, 8 p.m., ESPN
Best Buy gift card*, Tourneau watch, hooded sweatshirt, FlexFit cap

Champs Sports Bowl
Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando
Thursday, Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
$420 shopping trip to a local Best Buy, Timely Watch Co. watch

Valero Alamo Bowl

Alamodome, San Antonio

Fossil watches
Photo by:

Thursday, Dec. 29, 9 p.m., ESPN
$450 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Schutt mini-helmet, panoramic team photo

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas**
Friday, Dec. 30, noon, ESPN
Sony Gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, camo knit beanie, Ogio backpack, Big Game souvenir football

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Yankee Stadium, New York City
Friday, Dec. 30, 3:20 p.m., ESPN
Note: Bowl committee would not disclose details about participants’ gifts

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
LP Field, Nashville
Friday, Dec. 30, 6:40 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Reactor watch

Insight Bowl

Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
Friday, Dec. 30, 10 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Fossil watch, cap, Ogio Convoy backpack

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Reliant Stadium, Houston
Saturday, Dec. 31, noon, ESPN
Toshiba 32-inch flat-screen television, Fossil watch, belt buckle, T-shirt, backpack

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
Saturday, Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS
Gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, Majestic Pro-Base fleece pullover, VP Sports cap, Ogio Politan backpack, Helen of Troy hair dryer, souvenir coin

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis
Saturday, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Nike training shoes, Nike sport sandals, Nike sunglasses, Nike Air Jordan backpack, commemorative game ball

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
AT&T Park, San Francisco
Saturday, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Soundmatters Personal Audiophile loudspeaker, Fossil watch, cap, Timbuk2 custom messenger bag

Chick-fil-A Bowl

Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Saturday, Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
$250 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Russell Athletic ski cap, Russell Athletic travel bag, $15 Chick-fil-A gift card, commemorative football

TicketCity Bowl
Cotton Bowl, Dallas
Monday, Jan. 2, noon, ESPNU
Gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch

Capital One Bowl

Citrus Bowl, Orlando
Monday, Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ESPN
$420 shopping trip to a local Best Buy, Timely Watch Co. watch

Outback Bowl
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Monday, Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ABC
$150 Best Buy gift card, Fossil watch, Jostens ring, cap, $25 Outback Steakhouse gift certificate Gator Bowl
EverBank Field, Jacksonville
Monday, Jan. 2, 1 p.m., ESPN2
Fossil watch, Gator Gear performance headwear, rolling luggage bag, Jostens ring, commemorative football

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Monday, Jan. 2, 5 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Fossil watch, New Era hat, Oakley Flak Pack 3.0

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Monday, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Kenneth Cole watch, cap, Ogio Convoy backpack

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Tuesday, Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Reactor watch, New Era cap, Majestic fleece pullover

Discover Orange Bowl
Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Wednesday, Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Tourneau watch

AT&T Cotton Bowl

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Friday, Jan. 6, 8 p.m., Fox
Fossil watch
Note: Bowl committee would not disclose additional details about participant gifts

BBVA Compass Bowl
Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Saturday, Jan. 7, 1 p.m., ESPN
iBeats by Dr. Dre (ear buds), Reactor watch, Oakley Eyepatch 2, Oakley backpack duffel, Big Game commemorative football Bowl

Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
Sunday, Jan. 8, 9 p.m., ESPN
Nikon S80, Timely Watch Co. watch, leather luggage bag, commemorative football

Allstate BCS National Championship Game
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Monday, Jan. 9, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Gift suite, Fossil watch, New Era cap, Boxer and Stone shirt

* To be spent during the teams’ official store visit. Balance not used that day will be forfeited.
** The game is usually played at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. However, the 2011 matchup will be played in Dallas due to renovations at that facility.
All times listed are ET. Product details are provided as they were available. Most watches, rings, clothing and luggage are custom-made with the bowl logo. Gift suites are set up as private events in which game participants, and often bowl VIPs, are given an order form and allowed to select a gift, or gifts, up to a value that is predetermined by each specific bowl, not to exceed the NCAA limit of $550 per person.
Compiled by David Broughton and Brandon McClung
Sources: Bowl committees and vendors

“Unfortunately, as we made more decisions based on financial issues rather than on what’s right in terms of opportunities for student athletes, I think it will become increasingly difficult to justify what we’re trying to accomplish in intercollegiate sports.”
— Outgoing NCAA President Cedric Dempsey, who delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in 2002

Rev. Edward Malloy
Photo by: Mitchell Reibel
“In my 18 years, there have been only two days that I have been embarrassed to be president of Notre Dame: Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, because I felt we had not abided by our precedent.”
— Rev. Edward Malloy, then president of Notre Dame, on the school’s handling of the firing of football coach Tyrone Willingham (IAF, 2004)

“I am just amazed at how confused the media and our own people on campus are on how we finance intercollegiate athletics and what the role of commercialism is. … What I can’t live with is the general guideline that commercialism is bad and somehow we should rid college sports of it. That makes no sense in the world. It only demonstrates a misunderstanding of how we conduct intercollegiate athletics or any other program in our universities.”
— Late NCAA President Myles Brand (IAF, 2005)

“It’s not a business, damn it. If you think of it as a business, you’re going to

Peter Likins
Photo by: Mitchell Reibel
eliminate the track team and eliminate the volleyball team and focus on those revenue-generating sports. That’s not what we’re about. … The purpose of a university is to maximize social benefits while operating within financial restraints.”
— University of Arizona President Emeritus Peter Likins, taking issue with the classification of college sports as a business (IAF, 2006)

“We’re caught in a world right now where many of us are going to have to look at, ‘Can we afford to still keep doing what we’re doing right now?’ Bottom line, we’re trying to present and provide, for student athletes, as many collegiate experiences from this aspect of their education as we can. I’m not sure that’s possible.”
— Former University of Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood, on the finances of college sports (IAF, 2006)

Ari Fleischer
Photo by: Mitchell Reibel
“There are only two groups I can think of that have [separate] sections in the newspapers … and whose events are covered live on TV: It’s sports and it’s politics — particularly the White House. Nobody else in our society has the pressures, the influence the media can extend upon you and everything you do for a living, because of live events.”
— Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, on the similarities between sports and politics (IAF, 2006)

“We play water polo at Michigan. And where do we have to go to find competition? Other than Indiana, we have to get on an airplane and almost all the time, go to the West Coast. And that is a crazy sport for us to have, frankly.”
— Former Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin, on the idea of placing caps on the number of sports offered at schools (IAF, 2005)

“Twelve million people watched our Labor Day game against Florida State, and

James Barker
Photo by: Mitchell Reibel
that was an opportunity to tell 12 million people about our school. Do you have any idea how long it would take to tell 12 million people about our math department?”
— Clemson University President James Barker (IAF, 2007)

“I never thought I’d see the day where academic centers were part of the arms race.”
— Phil Hughes, then Kansas State associate athletic director for student services (IAF, 2007)

“The tournament in basketball has become so big, so huge that no one, quite frankly, cares about the regular season.”
— Chuck Gerber, then ABC/ESPN executive vice president of collegiate sports (IAF, 2007)

Ross Bjork
Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
“Our volleyball coach did not want his games streamed because he didn’t want to let other teams scout him online. I’m like, ‘Hey coach, come on. It’s 2008.’”
— Ross Bjork, former UCLA senior associate athletic director for external relations (IAF, 2008)

“If you want a silver bullet, this is it.”
— Bernie Mullin, Aspire Group principal, holding up his smartphone during a discussion on sources for new revenue in college sports (IAF, 2009)

“I had a teacher once in an advanced senior history course. There were 22 of us. One guy got an A, I got a B and four people got C’s. Everybody else failed. And he [the teacher] was so happy. If I coached like that, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t think it’s a mark of a good teacher when people flunk. I think it’s a mark of a pretty piss-poor teacher. … If my players aren’t doing what we need to do to win, I’m not doing a good job.”
— Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, on the pressure on college coaches to win (IAF, 2006)

“I am a university president. I have a responsibility for all of our students. I have a responsibility to academic integrity. I do not have a responsibility to entertain people for 3 1/2 hours on a Saturday afternoon and this is what is happening. We have corrupted the system and I have been part of that corruption.”
— Former Vanderbilt University Chancellor E. Gordon Gee, on why he folded his athletic department (IAF, 2004)

“One email said, ‘You have ruined my life.’ Another one said, ‘You have ruined

David Brandon
Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
my family.’ Those are a tremendous testament to the emotional connection people have with that game.”
— David Brandon, Michigan athletic director, on feedback he received over the possibility that Michigan would not play Ohio State in the last game of the season (IAF, 2010)

“When you step back and look at it, you have to say, ‘Isn’t there something wrong with this system when assistant coaches are getting paid twice as much as the faculty that serve the institution?’”
— Brit Kirwan, University System of Maryland chancellor (IAF, 2009)

“Don’t put that in a contract unless there’s a gun to your head.”
— Sandy Barbour, Cal-Berkeley athletic director, when asked how to deal with a situation in which a coach has in his contract that a new stadium will be built by a certain date (IAF, 2010)

Graham Spanier
Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
“It is at least 10 percent of my time and two-thirds of the psychic energy that is expended. Of course, 90 percent of that is about Joe Paterno.”
— Graham Spanier, then president of Penn State University, when asked about how much of his time in a typical day is spent on athletics (IAF, 2008)

“We accept the fact that African-Americans can play basketball and coach it; but we’re saying to ourselves that we can play football, but they can’t coach it, too.”
— Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association, on a report showing that African-Americans made up about 23 percent of Division I basketball coaches, but fewer than 4 percent of Division I-A football coaches (IAF, 2005)

Dan Parker is one of the most powerful figures in college athletics, but he doesn’t want you to know who he is.

He doesn’t like to do media interviews in person, he doesn’t want his picture in the paper and he doesn’t attend news conferences. Parker prefers working in the shadows while he executes some of the most highly publicized and intense job searches in sports.

University presidents and athletic directors, however, know him well. Some of them have spent a week or more by his side as they made their most important decisions — who to hire and who to fire.

In the next month, more than a dozen schools in the power conferences will hire football coaches and many of those searches will be coordinated by outside agencies. Of the eight football searches that were under way in the major conferences last week, three of the schools had hired a search consultant and another had not yet decided.

The University of Michigan used the firm of Spencer Stuart to help find the school’s next football coach, resulting in the hiring of Brady Hoke.
Photo by: Getty Images
“We never tell a client that this guy will win a national championship,” said Parker, president of Parker Executive Search, an Atlanta firm that coordinates searches for college athletic directors and coaches. “We don’t predict wins and losses. We don’t project success and we don’t endorse specific candidates. Our job is to deal with all of the moving parts behind the scenes.”

Each year, Division I schools conduct anywhere from 35 to 45 searches with the help of an outside agency. Almost all of those searches are the next AD, or football or basketball coach.

Those searches, which can cost $30,000 to $100,000, are scrutinized by the hour on social media and talk radio shows that speculate about candidates, real or perceived.

The hires, especially the football coaches who will cost $2 million to $4 million a year in salary for the high-profile jobs, often define the perception of the person doing the hiring. And that puts the search executives in an extraordinarily powerful position.

“Everything has changed so much because of the money involved,” said Todd Turner, a former AD at Washington,

Vanderbilt, N.C. State and Connecticut who now consults with schools on searches. “There is such a sense of urgency to hire the perfect person. I’ve heard administrators say, ‘I’ve got to get this right.’ You really start to understand the pressures they’re under.”

Firm guidance

The fertile college space has attracted large firms that formerly worked only in the corporate world, as well as individuals who see an opportunity to put their expertise and contacts to work.

Big 12 interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas, a former AD and full-time commissioner, has long been considered among the top consultants in the college search business, along with Bill Carr, another former AD who took his administrative background into the search field.

Larger executive search firms, such as Eastman & Beaudine, Spencer Stuart, Parker and DHR International, also have found a growing stream of revenue from colleges, even though their core competency might not have been rooted in college athletics.

And then there are those administrators, such as former NCAA President Cedric Dempsey and Turner, who use their extensive Rolodex from years in the business to consult on hires.

“It’s hard to work through the maze of advisers and agents without relationships,” said Michigan AD Dave Brandon, who used Spencer Stuart’s Jed Hughes, a Michigan graduate and former football coach, to conduct last year’s search for the Wolverines’ football coach. That resulted in the hiring of Brady Hoke.

New Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez talks to AD Greg Byrne (right), who opted to keep the school’s search in house.
Photo by: Icon SMI
Brandon said he was “never a big fan of search firms” when he was CEO at Domino’s Pizza, his job from 1999 to 2010 before becoming Michigan’s AD last year, but he found a search firm to be especially valuable for such a highly specialized position.

“You’re dealing with a compressed period of time and you need to be as efficient as possible,” he said. “To be productive, you’ve got to know the agents, the coaches, you’ve got to set up meetings and move around the country, all the while maintaining confidentiality.

“Our football search was done in six days and if I had done it on my own, it would have taken two to three weeks, and there would have been a lot of frustrating moments in the process.”

Presidents have traditionally leaned on search firms to hire ADs, just as they use firms to identify a business dean or a provost. More recently, though, ADs have begun to reach out to search firms for football and basketball coaching hires. That’s where search consultants see the greatest potential for revenue growth.

Russ Campbell, a Birmingham, Ala.-based agent who represents football coaches Bobby Petrino at Arkansas and Gene Chizik at Auburn, estimates that most of the college football searches in the next month will be coordinated by a search executive. Just five years ago, it was uncommon for an AD to seek outside counsel on a coaching hire, search executives said.

Campbell said the agent and the search executive do most of the matchmaking up front. They even establish financial parameters for a contract.

“Some ADs won’t take a call from an agent because they think ‘agent’ is a bad word, but we can call a search firm and they’ll take our call,” Campbell said. “It helps facilitate the process. It gives us a contemporary on the other side. It’s also going to force the AD to divorce himself from all of the emotion that can come from boosters and the general fan base, so there’s more of an objective view.”

Building a network

It’s not uncommon these days for the search to begin well before there’s a vacancy. ADs sometimes give search professionals a heads-up when there’s the potential for change and they even consult with them when they’re thinking about firing a coach.

That puts tremendous influence in the hands of the search executives and leads to concerns about conflicts of interest. It’s

common for ADs who are hired with the help of a search firm to use that search firm again to hire a coach.

Parker, for example, led the searches in the past 18 months for Tennessee’s AD, football coach and basketball coach. At Oregon, he led the search for the AD, then was hired by the school again to search for the executive senior associate AD.
That’s the relationship part of the business at work, Parker said.

“When they retain us, they’re looking for our strategy much more than ‘Who do we hire?’ or ‘How do we terminate this coach?’ I’ve been doing this for 40-plus years. I’m not working off the back of an envelope here,” Parker said.

But any AD or president who leans too much on an outside agency for hiring advice “is making a big mistake,” Michigan’s Brandon said. “Nobody understands who I’m comfortable with better than me. Nobody knows my culture better than me.”

The search executives, meanwhile, meet with coaches at events like the Final Four or conventions to identify the upwardly mobile. Sometimes they work with coaches on interview techniques. Those meetings help search firms present a list of candidates when the search begins.

“You have to know that the financials are just part of it, but there’s also the inspiration to win a championship, the right boss, the age of a coach’s children. If the children are in the middle of high school, they probably aren’t as willing to move,” said Bob Beaudine of Plano, Texas-based Eastman & Beaudine.

Beaudine led his first AD search 17 years ago and has made the college space a staple of his firm’s business ever since. He’s currently guiding the search for a football coach at Mississippi.

“We have coaches come through our offices all the time just so we can get to know them,” he said. “It’s during those kinds of meetings that a coach will say something like, ‘Hey, if this job ever comes open, it’d be a great fit.’”

Those meetings, combined with a database of research, create a coach’s profile. The database is different from firm to firm, but it typically includes salary, NCAA compliance history, a résumé check, educational degrees, and the coach’s history of Academic Progress Report rates.

Parker has coaches sign a statement of accuracy on their résumé and authorize a background check that includes a review of criminal, motor vehicle and credit histories.

Parker also scans another source for information — YouTube.

Eastman & Beaudine helped SMU lure coach June Jones from the University of Hawaii.
Photo by: Getty Images
“Sometimes there might be accusations or rumors about something that happened in a huddle or on the sidelines and we’ll look for as much video as we can to see what actually happened,” said Parker, who has 15 executives in his Atlanta office, five of whom work on college accounts. “It also gives us an idea of how the coach will come across.”

By the time the search begins, the firm typically has compiled a list of candidates from the database that makes sense. The search executives then consult with the AD on the list and begin making contact, typically with an agent first.

Many of the interviews from Parker’s searches are conducted in his Atlanta office, while others are held at hotels or airports. A veil of secrecy is critical to the process and more difficult than ever to maintain, especially as reporters and fans track airplane tail numbers and any other evidence about where an AD might have been.

Some administrators have the search professional negotiate the contract, or at least the major terms. Others prefer to do that themselves.

“The biggest thing for me is the confidentiality piece of it,” said TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte. “That’s where the main value is. There’s such a media frenzy around coaching hires, and you have to protect the school and the individual.”

Added Robert Shelton, the former Arizona president who recently became executive director of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: “When you’re in such a fishbowl and you’ve got to get it right, all of that attention can make the job much harder. It’s a lot easier to hire a dean of business or medicine.”

Finding the right fit

While consultants insist that the AD makes the hire, there can be a recruiting twist. Presiding over a University of Hawaii team that ran the table before losing to Georgia in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, June Jones was winning big, living in paradise and enjoying immeasurable popularity. Six days after the bowl game, Jones did what no one expected — he took on a major reclamation project at SMU.

Beaudine had been hired by the Mustangs to assist in the search.

“It all started with, ‘Hey, what’s your dream? What do you want to do next?’” Beaudine said during a series of conversations with Jones. “I asked June if he thought he’d always stay there or do something else. It comes down to how you sell a vision of that university to someone, how you bridge the gap. In the end, he went from paradise to the death-penalty school. That’s recruiting.”

Turnkey Sports Poll

The following are results of the Turnkey Sports Poll taken in November. The survey covered more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.

What do you think of increasing grants to student athletes by about $2,000, which would be in addition to expenses already covered by athletic scholarships (e.g.: tuition, room, board, books, etc.)?
In support of it 58%
Neutral 18%
Opposed to it 20%
Not sure / No response 4%
Which of the following is the toughest job in college sports?
Athletic director 51%
Head football coach 39%
Head basketball coach 4%
Not sure / No response 6%
What is more important for an AD candidate to have?
Business experience 80%
Experience in sports 17%
Not sure / No response 3%
What will the next major business trend be in collegiate athletics directly modeled after pro sports?
Dynamic pricing of tickets 32%
In-house sponsorship departments 26%
In-house ticket sales departments 18%
Utilizing executive search firms to fill top-level positions 12%
Other 4%
Not sure / No response 8%

Source: Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal. Turnkey Intelligence specializes in research, measurement and lead generation for brands and properties. Visit

Jones has gone on to turn SMU football around, but hiring a search firm is by no means a guarantee of success.
Parker represented Pittsburgh in December when it infamously hired football coach Michael Haywood, who was arrested on domestic battery charges eight days after his hiring and subsequently was fired before ever coaching a practice. The school said a proper background check revealed no such red flags.

But that situation reinforces the idea that hiring is much more an art than a science.

“There is some science to it and that’s what you work your way through early in the process,” Turner said. “Do you want to live in that city? Do you want to live in that part of the country? What are you making? How old are your kids? That’s the science part. … You really try to spend more time on the fit, though. That’s the part that’s art. What it boils down to most of the time is the chemistry between people. Is there a connection?”

The devil’s advocate perspective is that well-connected ADs are hired because of their ability to hire and fire. They have a staff of 10 to 20 assistant ADs. Why do they need to spend up to $100,000 on a search firm?

Arizona’s Greg Byrne hired football coach Rich Rodriguez last month without the aid of a search consultant, although he did use Dempsey as a sounding board, which did not require a fee.

But that was an unusual case. Arizona dismissed former coach Mike Stoops in the middle of the season, which gave Byrne ample time to organize his search. And his prime target, Rodriguez, was not coaching another team when he was hired, which created fewer obstacles in the search.

Byrne concedes, though, that he would have turned to the help of a search firm if he hadn’t locked down Rodriguez by now.

“It’s such a different world now,” Campbell said. “There’s such a deep pool of talent to sift through and there’s also been the expansion of technology. An AD can’t go anywhere without being spotted. How do you get control of the process? The answer a lot of times is to hire an intermediary who is less noticeable. It’s the trend now.”

Bob Beaudine
Eastman & Beaudine, Plano, Texas
Beaudine’s father was a pioneer in the search business and Bob has followed in his footsteps, conducting searches for the NBA, MLB, Texas Rangers and MSG Sports. Beaudine began moving into college athletics 17 years ago and has become one of the most prevalent search consultants in the space.

Bill Carr
Carr Sports Associates, Gainesville, Fla.
The former Florida and Houston athletic director handles mostly AD searches and consulting projects for athletic departments, but he’s been in the college business for 41 years as an assistant football coach, administrator and consultant. He aided UNC’s athletic director search, which resulted in the hiring of Bubba Cunningham from Tulsa.

Cedric Dempsey

Consultant, San Diego
Dempsey, the former NCAA president, does more consulting these days than full-fledged searches, but he remains a highly influential figure who always gets his phone calls returned. Arizona AD Greg Byrne reached out to Dempsey when he hired football coach Rich Rodriguez. Dempsey also is consulting for the new college division at San Diego-based JMI Sports.

Jed Hughes

Spencer Stuart, San Francisco
Hughes, a former assistant football coach at UCLA, has built Spencer Stuart’s sports consulting practice into one of the most influential, working with the Pac-12, the Green Bay Packers and the USOC. He worked with the Michigan Wolverines to hire football coach Brady Hoke.

Chuck Neinas
Neinas Sports Services, Boulder, Colo.
Neinas’ name has not surfaced with any current searches because of his role as interim commissioner of the Big 12, but he was a pioneer in the college search business after a lengthy career in administration. He ran the old College Football Association, which was the precursor to the BCS, and was commissioner of the Big Eight.

Dan Parker, Laurie Wilder

Parker Executive Search, Atlanta
The majority of the firm’s revenue comes from job searches in higher education, but the college athletics piece of the business is growing the fastest. Parker, a native Georgian who grew up the son of a farmer, has endeared himself to university presidents and ADs with his Southern charm and deep set of contacts.

Glenn Sugiyama, Pat Richter

DHR International, Chicago
This global search firm has moved aggressively into the college space in the last few years under Sugiyama’s guidance, leading searches that produced football coaches Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and Randy Edsall at Maryland, as well as basketball coach Johnny Dawkins at Stanford. DHR handled Rice’s AD search, which led to the hiring of Rick Greenspan.

Todd Turner
Collegiate Sports Associates, West End, N.C.
Turner used plenty of search firms when he was an AD at four schools and now he’s on the other side as a consultant. Turner worked with New Mexico on the hiring of football coach Bob Davie, and Oklahoma on the basketball search that produced Lon Kruger. He’s brought in retired basketball coach Dave Odom, formerly at South Carolina and Wake Forest, as an aide on basketball searches.

As the president at the University of Arizona, Robert Shelton raised hundreds of millions of dollars for grants and created new scholarship programs, but he’s fully aware that his five years there will be remembered for the hiring of his athletic director and basketball coach. Despite spending a lifetime in academia, the importance of athletics to the image of a university was never lost on Shelton, 63. That’s one of the reasons he took on the reclamation project as executive director of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last June. “Maybe, selfishly, this will be a good platform to provide a different voice than most other bowl leadership, when it comes to where college athletics are going overall,” Shelton said. With the bowl season upon us and the BCS matchups now set, Shelton spoke with staff writer Michael Smith and shared his thoughts on the rehabilitation required for the Fiesta Bowl to recover from the scandal that led to his hiring.

The Fiesta Bowl’s former CEO, John Junker, and many of its employees were brought down by a scheme to reimburse employees for their political contributions and a subsequent cover-up of the scandal. How does the bowl recover from that?
SHELTON: Well, you start by being very careful about who’s on your staff, including the committees and the

volunteers. That’s why we have a new code of conduct that everyone must sign. It’s why we do background checks on everyone, including the volunteers. You make sure that your way of functioning is open to outside folks. Everyone is invited in to take a look at how we’re doing business and who we’re doing business with. There’s no lack of commitment to keep things transparent. On a more formal level, you have audits. In the past, those were too superficial. … We’re not dismissing the past, but we are letting people know this is a new era.

How many people do you have representing the Fiesta Bowl?
We have about 35 full-timers, and we’ll bring in 10 to 12 interns that are mostly recent college graduates. And then there are up to 3,000 volunteers that will help us with our events.

You’ve been in education all your life, most recently at the University of Arizona. Why did you want this job?
I’ve always been keen on athletics. … When I was at North Carolina, I was able to see conference expansion at work when the ACC went from nine to 12 schools. At Arizona, I represented the Pac-10 on the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee and was there when the conference expanded to the Pac-12. And I grew up playing baseball, tennis, basketball. … Interestingly enough, I had never really given much thought to this job, though. The whole courtship took place in a 2 1/2-week period. But being from Arizona and understanding the importance of the Fiesta Bowl, not just to the teams in the game, but also to the community and to the charities involved, I just thought it was important. … Maybe, selfishly, this will be a good platform to provide a different voice than most other bowl leadership, when it comes to where college athletics are going overall. It seemed to be a great opportunity to inject a president’s perspective into the discussion through a bowl.

What were some important first steps in the new job?
I met for a half hour with every staff member to get their input. Most of them had never been in the

Robert Shelton faced immediate scrutiny when he was hired by the Fiesta Bowl. He has since implemented a code of conduct for staffers and made the bowl’s operations more transparent.
Photo by: Fiesta Bowl
executive director’s office. Most of the board members had never been in the executive director’s office. I made myself more visible. I’m writing a newsletter that goes out every month. We’ve remodeled our website, so that everything is up there, from the 276-page investigation to how you request contributions as a charity. We’d done charitable giving in the past, but it was hit or miss. Nobody really understood how it came about. The website now lists the criteria, and now worthwhile causes that never knew how to interact with us can get involved and feel like they’re being heard.

How much engagement do you have with Tostitos?
When the [scandal] first broke, the board members stayed very tight with Tostitos. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a chance to meet their marketing folks here. I’ve gone to Plano [Texas] to visit with their leadership. The relationship is strong and positive. You think about it, that relationship is 17 years old, which makes it somewhat unique.

How badly is there a need for an overall image rehab for bowls as well?
What I’ve found is that the whole bowl organization and structure is not well understood. Maybe it is and people still don’t like what they see. We’re making efforts to be more transparent — through our website, through a branding study that we’re working on — to show how we operate, what we do and why we exist. It’s not just to put on a game. There’s economic development, there’s enhancement to the community and there’s the philanthropic activity. That message is subsumed within the enthusiasm for the game and we need to tell the story better.

There are a lot of options for the next iteration of the BCS, including no automatic qualifiers. What do you think?
I have the luxury of pleading newness and still learning. But several options have been discussed, from going back to the old bowl system to changing nothing to multiteam playoff. Putting on my former academic hat, the playoff configurations give me a lot of heartburn. It would have major disruptive potential for the whole enterprise. But I’m still mostly listening and learning about whatever configurations are out there.