Stevens: An Athletic Department CEO Wears Many Hats On The Hot Seat
May 9, 2010
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
To judge a CEO of an athletics department, you have to pull out facts and figures from a variety of sources and examine them from a variety of angles.
Of course, you will toss down the Xs and the Os, the Ws and Ls that come with this world of athletics. You will look at the red and the black of accounting ledgers. You will flip in community service, administrative hires, coaching hires, the well-being of the student athletes, academic success, and on and on and on.
You have to be smart enough to realize that CEOs are not in a pure win-win situation and there will be strides forward and a few stumbles. You have to be discerning enough to weigh it all and look for a scale that tilts the proper way.
If the scale tips the wrong way, you fire the guy. If it tips a little bit in the right direction, you reserve judgment. If the scale plummets toward the good side, you probably should stop and appreciate what you have.
It's difficult to judge this leader using a single source of evaluation. The media peeks in and sees one thing, often looking for muddy clouds in the water of the fishbowl. No problem here. This is what the public's watchdog is supposed to do.
The public also looks over and sees what it perceives to be good or bad. Then there are the perceptions that come from politicians, community leaders, boosters, in-house academia types and on and on and on.
It's not an easy hat to wear or a soft and cool seat on which to sit. It can be a hot seat - so many people to lead, so many people to please. There is a reason athletics are often called the front door to a university.
Possibly, the best way to evaluate this type of CEO is with the balance that comes from the department. You want more Ws than Ls. You want more black than red in the books. You want to see improvement in facilities, academic performance, athletic performance - well, everything.
It's probably fair to say that there are few athletic departments in NCAA major-college ball which have enjoyed the success that Lobos have enjoyed under the leadership of Paul Krebs. That's why an impressive handful of community and civic leaders (including Gov. Bill Richardson) are throwing or attending an appreciation party on Tuesday for UNM's Vice President of Athletics. These leaders will pause to recognize the leadership the Lobos have on their hot seat of athletics.
It's not impossible to throw down the lists of Krebs' accomplishments as a Lobo. The list simply would be too long, too tedious to work through. If you know all the points on the list, your first thought might be to ask why Krebs is still a Lobo and not an Ohio State Buckeye or maybe a Texas Longhorn.
Well, sometimes you just get lucky like that, the way the Lobos have gotten lucky in keeping a Steve Alford, a Joe Franklin, a Ray Birmingham, a Jeff Nelson - to name a few successful Lobo coaches hired by Krebs.
So, where do you start the Krebs' list? What do you leave out? What do you highlight?
Much of what Krebs has done as a Lobo comes with the job description. He is supposed to hire good coaches. He is supposed to improve facilities and add things like the Student Support and Services Center and the $7 million indoor practice facility. He is supposed to spearhead improvements to softball, track & field and spruce up The Pit by $60 million.
These things are a given, but what isn't as much as a given is the way Krebs has worked to improve the quality of life of the Lobo student-athlete. Let's face it, there are marquee D-I programs that push their coaches and their athletes no more than it takes to keep their jocks eligible to win games and rake in BCS money. You can't help but wonder if these CEOs really "care."
The extent of Kreb's caring can be seen in many areas. The Lobos' four highest semester GPAs, since UNM began tracking grades in 1988, have been recorded in the past four terms. UNM's student development staff has nearly doubled in size, including the addition of a learning specialist and a clinical psychologist.
So, have the Lobos benefited from this? Are they graduating or just winning? The NCAA calculations say UNM graduation levels are increasing, some at a record level. The Lobos' 2009 graduation rates increased seven percent from 2008. The latest NCAA-calculated graduation for scholarship freshmen went up by five percent at UNM.
Do these rates matter to Lobo fans who want to see Lobos beat Brigham Young or TCU? Probably not as much as they matter to parents, who place their kids into Krebs' department for four or five years.
One of the more amazing accomplishments of Lobos under Krebs was UNM roaring to a No. 24 ranking earlier this season in the Learfield Sports Director's Cup. This ranking had UNM ahead of a number of big-time BCS schools - and all non-BCS programs.
This is the balance you seek in an athletic department and you don't get this kind of balance from leadership that stops with coaches.
An athletic department is fed from many streams of support, running from financial to political to academic to simply Joe and Susie Fan in the stands. You can rate UNM's success by the 12 league championships that have come in the past three years -the most in school history over a three-year span.
You can rate Lobos' success by the 61 All-Americans named during Krebs' regime. You can applaud the nine Lobo Athletes of the Year named in 2008-09, the most ever at UNM and more than any other MWC program that season.
If you are an accountant - or an economist -- you can appreciate the record amounts of funds (and members) The Lobo Club raised in 2007-08 and 2008-09 in these hard economic times.
Of course, there are a lot of good Lobos to thank for this unprecedented run of Lobo success. If you get a chance, pat one on the back and maybe say, "Good work."
On Tuesday night, an impressive cast of wise onlookers will gather and do exactly that.