Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Advice for KU athletic director search committee


The six-member search committee charged with recommending to the chancellor a candidate to become Kansas University’s next athletic director can’t get caught up in worrying about the KU fan base’s gut reaction to the choice.

Here’s what that will be: “You’ve got to be kidding me. We settled for that? What a joke!”

Nobody will make the majority of fans happy initially. Rare is the athletic director who is a household name in any household but his or her own, so it’s typical for the reaction of fans proud of their university, any university, to think that their school is too big-time to take a candidate with whom so few are familiar.

One more piece of advice for the search committee: Don’t be so shallow as to dismiss candidates who are not from “football schools.” A smart marketer is a smart marketer, whether the product is basketball, football, pet rocks.

Starting with Al Bohl bringing back tailgating and continuing with Lew Perkins marketing the football program with enticing family season ticket packages, etc., and greatly upgrading facilities, recent athletic administrations have put a great premium on calling attention to football, the most significant source of untapped revenue. The next AD will keep the pressure on the staff to continue the emphasis on football.

The pool of AD candidates already has a serious factor threatening to shrink the candidates pool: Turner Gill’s five-year, $10 million contract. The whole thing is guaranteed. No buyout.

Any AD candidate who says that’s not a problem, scratch him off the list because it is a problem, a bigger one than having a bad football team for five years if Gill’s as overmatched as he thus far appears.

KU survived the most recent conference realignment by wisely attaching itself to Texas on its terms, but the 10-team Big 12 still has a bit of a shaky feel to it. The next time it becomes an issue, it’s imperative that KU’s football program is drawing large live audiences and television ratings. It doesn’t take long to sink in both areas. For example, the game at Iowa State one week from Saturday won’t be televised.

Because Gill’s contract is so steep and all guaranteed, Perkins put a great deal of the athletic department’s future stability in Gill’s hands. It was quite a gamble, one that pays off only if the head coach and his staff upgrade recruiting to the extent Perkins believed they would. Gill was making less than a half-million a year at Buffalo. Might he have taken $1 million a year with a $2 million buyout? Only if he believed in his ability to win big enough to get a big pay raise.

The combination of Gill’s massive contract and the threat of conference realignment in the not-too-distant future means Kansas must identify an athletic director who is a leader, not just a manager, one with deeply-rooted contacts among college athletic power brokers and one with a keen business sense, not necessarily one with a football background.

A man who, according to multiple people familiar with his work, fits that profile, is out there. I never have met him, and he wouldn’t know me if I asked him for a “no comment” on whether he’d be interested in the job. His name is Mike Bobinski, and he’s in his second stint as athletic director at Xavier University.

Bobinski so improved the financial outlook of Xavier’s athletic department in his first stint (1998-2004) that he was recruited to do the same for the university’s development office (2004-06). He returned to the AD job in 2006 and is two years into a five-year term as a member of the NCAA Basketball Tournament selection committee, along with seven other athletic directors and two conference commissioners, including Dan Beebe of the Big 12.

A magna cum laude graduate of Notre Dame in 1979, Bobinski played baseball four seasons at ND. A certified public accountant, Bobinski worked for Deloitte, Haskins and Sell and Arthur Young & Company from 1979-82 and then worked for the Walt Disney Company in Orlando (1982-84). From there, he returned to Notre Dame, where he was associate and assistant business manager for the university. From there, he became associate AD at the Naval Academy and then the AD at Akron before moving to Xavier.

On top of his business acumen, Bobinski has exhibited an exceptional feel for choosing the right coach. He hired Thad Matta as basketball coach, and when Matta bolted for Ohio State, Sean Miller, hired by Bobinski as associate head coach, was in place to take the job. When Miller left for Arizona, Bobinski picked the right replacement in Chris Mack. He also hired Xavier’s hugely successful women’s basketball coach, Kevin McGuff.

Forming an opinion on the right athletic director for a school is tougher than picking a coach because we can see a coach’s team play on TV. Nobody would watch an athletic director’s reality show because it would be too boring.

Even so, Bobinski sure seems as if he’s a candidate worth exploring. Why not find out if he’s interested?


KU_FanSince75 11 years, 11 months ago

We have to stomach Turner Gill for five years no matter if we are getting spanked 59-7 every game? Geeze, Louisa!!!!!

jhox 11 years, 11 months ago

The problems in the athletic department started long before Gray-Little became chancellor. To blame her is revisionist history. She was new to the University when all of this went down, and I'm sure had her own set of headaches to deal with. At that point there was little reason for her to doubt that Lew Perkins couldn't be trusted to make the right moves. HIs glowing reputation was still intact at that point, and she had no reason to think he was not making the right decisions, or question what he was doing. She could not be expected to micro-manage everything.

It's also premature to give up on Gill. I've been as disappointed with a lot of aspects of his coaching thus far as anyone, but you have to give him at least 2 or 3 years, to see if things are headed in the right direction. It's crazy to already be thinking of a buy out after only one season. He doesn't have a lot of high D1 talent to work with. As good of an X and O guy as Mangino was, he went 0 and 7 in the Big 12 last year with a better group of players than he left Gill with this year. Think about it, we lost the most prolific QB in school history and 2 wide receivers who made it deep into NFL camps and even with those guys we went 0 for 7 last year in the conference.

I'm not going to defend Gill entirely. The players have shown no signs of enthusiasm, and they seem to give up and roll over early in games. Their fitness level can clearly be questioned. That's definitely on the coaching staff. But let's be honest here, there are not many Big 12 caliber players on this current football roster.

Andy Tweedy 11 years, 11 months ago

I was prepared to post on this article, but I think you pretty much nailed everything I had to say. Well said...

bradh 11 years, 11 months ago

I agree with you somewhat, Gray-Little isn't responsible for a lot of what has gone down in the athletic department. However, I believe she was on board and in charge when Gill's contract was arranged. She should have known that $2 million was a pretty hefty contract for a football coach, especially one coming out of a non-BCS league. To then guarantee that contract for 5 years seems unconscionable to me. She also put two AD employees on the search committee. I've never seen an employee in the group hiring their boss. Maybe they should have been made available to the committee to answer questions? Gray-Little also restructured the athletic department so the AD has less control. She definitely hasn't made the search for a new AD any easier.

Rivethead 11 years, 11 months ago

The entire "Gill wasn't left with any talent" argument has been disproven over and over again. I don't understand why people continue to go there.


The current KU roster has more 4 star rated players than ever before (Operum, Kande, Murphy, McDougald, Terry, Bourbon) and the list of high 3 star players is quite long as well. There is a LOT of talent on this team. It's just young and poorly coached.

Jennifer Nikkila Pressgrove 11 years, 11 months ago

Those players you mention are; sophomore, rs freshman, overrated, sophomore, freshman and red shirting... you do mention that the team is young, but it's almost in passing at the end of your comment. Isn't it unreasonable to expect them to be at a talent-level to lead a team against Big 12 opponents this early in their career? I don't think that Mangino and his staff would be in any better of a spot right now. Scratch that, they probably would have won the NDSU game. But, from my p.o.v., injuries and a lack of depth on both lines are the biggest issue this year.

TrueBlue92 11 years, 11 months ago

FACT: High School Stars mean nothing. Get over it!!

Andy Hess 11 years, 11 months ago

the lack of speed and execution on the field disproves your post. sure, we have slightly more talent based on a flawed star system. that doesn't amount to much when the players can't actually live up to that potential on the field. that falls squarely on the shoulders of the players. Gill can't go out there, play QB and throw long bombs anymore (Gill, at age 48, can out-throw anyone on the roster, by the way). the bottom line is that missed reads, dropped passes, fumbles and missed tackles are not the fault of the coaching staff.

Michael Leiker 11 years, 11 months ago

Swish, what is the fault of the coaching staff if those things aren't? You don't think Bill Young improved the tackling of the defense? I just don't get how people think those things just happen on a football field. Any coach will tell you that EVERYTHING that happens on a football field is planned? Some people do it at a higher level and make it look like it is just happening, but these things can and should be attributed to coaching.

shelleysue 11 years, 11 months ago

Mangino had the ability to bring out the best in the players he had to work with. So when you talk about the level of talent he left Gill with, remember that Mangino was probably thinking outside the box when he brought them into the program. If someone had good athletic ability and some football skill, Mangino often made them into pretty good players.

shelleysue 11 years, 11 months ago

I have never stopped to consider what our record would be if Mangino was still around. I've been too upset at the fact that I'm not having any fun with KU football right now. My opinion is that he had a knack for making something out of nothing which he often did.

Michael Leiker 11 years, 11 months ago

Gino 1-7 last year in Big XII...and they were competitive in most every game they should have been competitive in.

kureader 11 years, 11 months ago

I was pretty much with you until your last sentence. Yes, we don't have enough blue chip players ... big playmakers. But, we have a good number of Big 12 caliber players on our roster ... certainly as many Big 12 caliber players as K-State has (not that they're loaded with blue chip talent either).

Losing to 52 points to KState has more to do with coaching than player talent. There simply isn't a 52 point separation in talent between these two schools right now. I do worry that the talent difference will grow, if we don't get things back on track soon. K-State is only going to get better.

As for chosing the new athletic director, I'm sure the search committee is hanging on Keegan's every word. They have many qualified candidates, and they're getting more advice than they probably need right now. I'm confident they'll find a great AD. I wish I was confident that we can sit here for 5 years and watch what Gill is going to do to our football program. I simply can't believe we gave Gill (or anyone else) a fixed 5 year deal for $10 million with no way out except to fire him for cause. Our previous world class AD was not on his game when he did this.

jayhawkplano 11 years, 11 months ago

Tom ...

I have to admit that I'm confused on this one. At one point you make the strong case for a football-centric AD. Later, you push the guy from Xavier a notoriously basketball-centric school in a lower division.

I agree we need a football guy in that chair ... our basketball program already has a pseudo-AD in Self and can run fine with little outside assistance. Our football program? Meh.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 11 months ago

I'm afraid that you missed the point. The case for Bobinski had nothing to do with ties to football or basketball (he played baseball, anyway); the case for Bobinski is that he is a smart business man. He will be able to see the great opportunity we have to expand the entire athletics department based on capturing increased profitability out of football.

Focusing on football when you are an administrator in the A10 is ridiculous because no matter how good your football team gets they will never generate big time TV revenue playing in the FCS (whereas his basketball team plays against top-notch competition and gets the spotlight every March).

LAJayhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

"Don’t be so shallow as to dismiss candidates who are not from 'football schools.' A smart marketer is a smart marketer, whether the product is basketball, football, pet rocks."

Clearly, jayhawkplano, you did not read this sentence. Keegan is saying you don't need to grab a guy with a football background to have him do well. In fact -- Keegan is arguing -- it would be short-sighted and closed off to do so.

HawkDigestCom 11 years, 11 months ago

Gray-Little had to be aware of the no-buyout clause. That was probably the one thing that everyone could agree on once Gill was announced. No buyout = dumb.

Further, she has been on the job one year and I don't exactly see movement in the right direction.

Can we hire Al Bohl as permanent football coach hiring consultant?

KGphoto 11 years, 11 months ago

I was thinking of Bohl since this whole thing went down. The only reason he's not still at KU is because of Roy Williams. Get him on the horn.

Bill Kackley 11 years, 11 months ago

That and a few ilegalities at San Jose State.

kugrad93 11 years, 11 months ago

Actually, the big money boosters hated Bohl because he was a buffoon. They would not take him back. You might notice he hasn't found another D-I job.

gchawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Sorry, but Bohl was bad news before Roy Williams. He had all the wit and charm of a slug. Other people must feel this way as well because he still isn't working, at least as an A.D.

ahpersecoachingexperience 11 years, 11 months ago

For example. Hiring Xaviers AD "you got to be kidding me!"

Another example. Hiring a top associate from osu, uf, ut, al, etc "wow! You got to be kidding me!"

See the difference. . .

treidy 11 years, 11 months ago

KU's Three Step Approach to Long-term, Sustained Success:

1) Hire Denny Thum NOW! 2) Fire Turner Gill NOW! 3) Gray-Little Resign NOW!

Jaminrawk 11 years, 11 months ago

No one is going to be a perfect hire for everyone, but personally I just hope they go after a younger person than last time, who has worked with a successful athletic department for a while. There are plenty of associates out there that would love an opportunity to run the show.

aequitas 11 years, 11 months ago

Fire Gray-Little? Some of you are unbelievable. If you fire a chancellor after being on the job only a year and half for a non-academic related issue, good luck with getting any other minimally qualified candidate to come and lead our University. We would be the laughingstock of higher ed. And don't come back and say we already because we got blown out of a couple of games on the football field.

Irrational much?

treidy 11 years, 11 months ago

I didn't say fire, I said resign. Absolutely. She is the leader of the University and these repeated embarrassments have happened under her watch.

Clarence Haynes 11 years, 11 months ago

C'mon treidy....The fact is that many of these problems (particularly the ticket scandel and this latest development with Lew) happened before or just after BG-L arrived. Using your train of thought, does this mean we take away some of Hemmingway's pension? Heck NO!

KU needs to hire an AD, get the entire athletic program back on track toward success, and put in place firm policies, procedures, and controls. Finally, let the Board of Regents decide BG-L's destiny as she wades through these embarrassing events while also managing the affairs of the University of Kansas!

amos27 11 years, 11 months ago

My bet is Coach Self will give the final blessing, regardless of who the search committee recommends. And since he's about all that's right in the athletic department, I doubt there are many complaints. But the new AD is going to have to some leeway to repair what one man in a vacuum has done to our football team.

ahpersecoachingexperience 11 years, 11 months ago

Reading between the lines are you trying to tell us we won't have the cash to go after a big time ad because gills contract has us cash strapped?

4everahawk 11 years, 11 months ago

This has absolutely nothing to do with this article, but was a thought that has been going around in my head for a long time.

LP needed KU to have consecutive losses to seal the deal on the 'abuse' charges by a few of the players (mainly the son of the ESPN commentator). From what I have read he had many consultations with the players during that time. Some of those games were absolutely winnable, but we always came up short......?

LAJayhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

We are all now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

eastTXjayhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

ummm, Craig James son was locked in a closet at Texas Tech, not sure what Lou or Mangino had to do with that.

fortunately, i've been locked in a closet since the GT game this year (compliments of Dish Network and their scrap with Fox Sports) so I haven't witnessed just how bad we really are.

kugrad93 11 years, 11 months ago

So 4everahawk, who has his Big 12 coaching scandals confused, is implying that KU players threw games at Perkins' request so that they could get MM fired. Um, OK.

If only their horrific efforts this year could be explained by a lame conspiracy theory.

4everahawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Sorry eastTX for getting the wrong a-hole in a KU story........guess I was just thinking of the 'wronged' players here (you know, a skinned up hand, a poke in the chest, etc, etc) and he came to mind since he seemed to be the same type of player.

kugrad: ANYTHING is possible as it pertains to LP.....anything.

beenahawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Agree. The Mangino "witchhunt" in itself likely cost us 2 games by shifting both the players and the staff's attention to off field issues.However, the issue is no longer about Lew or Mangino, it's all about sifting through the rubble now.

jaymar74 11 years, 11 months ago

Gill was being tested for 40 days and 40 nights. The 40th day was Oct 14. Gill seemed to stay his path throughout everything that happened. We will begin to see if he passed this Saturday, I know we as fans did not pass.

eastTXjayhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

i'd probably be ok if Leach was the coach here...i'd rather be locked in a closet than not be able to see girls after 10pm...and of course, ETJ sometimes lets loose with a F-bomb...

kureader 11 years, 11 months ago

Interesting point ... put one spoiled brat kid in an airconditioned building at Texas Tech for a couple hours under the supervision of a person from your training staff ... or, at KU, keep 80 players from seeing girls after 10:00 pm every night during the season. Which is more degrading, inappropriate, frustrating and unnecessary? I think GILL loses!

rockchalkjjjhawk 11 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Keegan, it seems to me that you wrote various similar articles about the same thing leading up to the hiring of Coach Gill. Without a thought about Turner's historical success rate at the time. Mr. Keegan, what do you say to the folks who said -“You’ve got to be kidding me. We settled for that? What a joke!”- during the hiring of the current football coach? Can you say so far that they were they not correct? Lets' be real. Some folks just have relevant, unique worldly experiences and/or possess abilities that give them better intuitions than others. Also, some folks just have much higher IQs than others. It's any of those folks who, when they say 'You've got to be kidding me', should really be the ones listened to. The bottom line is Keegan should be the absolute last person a well educated committee should listen to.

As far as Gill, he may very well end up great or he may end up a bust. We won't know until the end of next season. What we do know is in the last two games we've got beaten by a total of 100 points. So please Mr. Keegan, enough with your negative pre-stance about well thought out, genuine folks who speak their minds and do so without any agenda or political calculation.

Mkultra 11 years, 11 months ago

How about adding 2 teams to the Big 12 so there are actually 12 teams and we can have a football championship game?

KeverLocksley 11 years, 11 months ago

As for right now....Lets just keep Coach Bill Self Happy :-)

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