There is a lot of talk about the direction of Oregon State sports and most of it is not positive. In the midst of a very disappointing basketball season, a disappointing football season, and with very real and self-imposed monetary reasons that will result in neither sport making major coaching changes any time soon, many fans feel powerless.
That anger tends to find its ways to the desk, inbox, voice mailbox, and carrier pigeon route of Bob DeCarolis. Lately, common mutterings and hand-wrung exclamations about the future revolve around one common thought: “Can Bob hire a good basketball coach?”
The trend points to yes, but it is a trend of one and it revolves around the success Scott Rueck has achieved with probably the worst foundation in Division 1 sports when he took over. Unfortunately, there were two questionable hires and two or three bad extensions prior to that which really worries many. Now I don’t blame Bob for the hiring of Craig. He literally could not find many other options. The extensions after the fact are what gets many fans’ blood boiling.
Bob has a lot of tough decisions, starting yesterday with his meeting with Craig and in the next few years. How he handles the basketball situation will be a lot of how his legacy as AD will be viewed. With four capital projects in the works, an almost entirely new athletic landscape during his time and countless firsts and new achievements under his watch, it seems like a “no-brainer” that he would be remembered fondly.
But his legacy with basketball, despite a new practice facility, is not positive and should they bumble the next few steps and set the program back to the cellar, it will be the reason he gets mixed reviews in our memories.
Unfortunately, fan popularity is not all that leadership is. Leadership also requires a little Machiavellian decision making.
Real Leadership means making decisions DESPITE fan interests because it is what is best for the entire department.
Spending $4 million on a program that may not return the investment even with improved play is what is weighing in the balance. With 2013 ending as another year in the red, is it worth buying out a coach that is hemorrhaging fans when that same investment in recruiting and marketing might improve football? Would the excitement of a new coach breathe enough new life into a program to add 3,000 people on average to every game? Would the fans still take a wait-and-see approach and be cautious? Since that buyout would also mean you would need the new coach’s salary add on top of that, and since you don’t want to go on the cheap, does that turn into $5+ million? In order to get that five million in the next year, you would have to average how many fans? 7000 per game? 8000?
So what is the return on investment for firing Craig? Is it enough to warrant the cost when that same money could be added to football operating costs to get more recruiting support, improved coaches salaries and maybe get a quality opponent to come out West to visit us? Or may be if you need to go in debt $5 million more, it is better to spend it on getting the Valley Football Center remodel going?
Fans don’t want that, fans don’t want to see the program deteriorate more, but when you are looking at the numbers, regardless of how they ended up as they are (*cough* extensions *cough*) is it worth it? That is the decisions real leaders have to make and that is where Bob is at. Appease fans, but lose money, or save money and appease the fans of your most profitable sport? Or just don’t go into more debt and hope that football delivers on its promise to improve this year. And not just with a win over Portland State.
Every decision made is not in a vacuum, it all has to tie together and make sense for what you have. Leadership means making tough decisions, and sometimes those are not popular. Sometimes you are wrong, and then you have to deal with your mistakes and do what is best with that new reality. That is where we are — mistakes of the past leading to tough decisions.
Lets see what the Athletic Department comes up with. Regardless, it is going to be wrong to someone because there are no right answers for everyone. I have a feeling it will be the fans that are most disappointed.