Get Politics Off Discovering MSU Sports activities Administrators | Information, sports activities, jobs
Meddling in the sports departments of Michigan colleges is a fine sport for state officials. This is especially true of Michigan State University.
MSU is looking for a new sporting director to replace Bill Beekman, who has been leaving his post since 2018. It’s a very desirable position that carries a lot of weight on campus. And so everyone wants to have a say in the selection.
The new director will report to MSU President Samuel Stanley, who should be able to appoint someone he is comfortable with.
But the MSU board – and others – want to do the president’s job for him.
The board has always been more interested in football and basketball programs than any other university function, and too often has allowed its booster to interfere with its supervisory duties.
Shades of it popped up in this search. Some on the board reportedly suggested that head basketball coach Tom Izzo be named interim sporting director while the search for a permanent sporting director continues.
History recommends against such a dual role. In 1988, MSU abandoned then-soccer coach George Perles, along with his coaching duties, to keep him from joining the NFL after winning the Rose Bowl. The move was a failure that ultimately cost MSU a good president in John DiBiaggio.
Izzo already has a great job and one whose performance would likely suffer if he had to split his time and energy between winning basketball games and running the sports department.
Stanley, who interviews candidates himself, insists that no interim director is needed as Beekman will stay until his successor is hired.
He gets a lot of uninvited outside help. This week, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson gave her thoughts on how Stanley should conduct the search.
In a letter to Stanley and chairwoman of the MSU board of directors Diane Byrum, Benson a “The national, open and transparent search offers the opportunity to recruit and hire one of several of the country’s leading sporting directors.”
Quoting her role as chair of the Task Force on Women in Sport from Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Benson also added this not-so-disguised warning: “… after personally visiting and meeting college athletes at several public universities in our state, we have seen the direct difference between sports departments that support and invest in female athletes – like Alma College – and that are about to become governor do not communicate that. “
So Benson wants a woman in the post, while the board of directors and key donors reportedly favor an unnamed African American who is already working in the sports department and starting a diversity duel.
What should drive Stanley’s decision is to attract the most capable person to an important role at large universities like MSU. Football and basketball have grown into large businesses that generate significant income for schools, which means that a successful AD must have solid business skills.
The position also requires a hands-on manager willing to stand up to coaches who too often have not been accountable. During the sexual assault scandal surrounding Larry Nassar, the MSU learned the damage that can be done if sports departments are run too loosely.
The challenge becomes even greater as college sport enters the era of name, image, and likeness that will enable individual athletes to capitalize on their popularity and achievement.
The MSU needs a sports director who is able to navigate the potential landmine of athletes seeking fame on social media. The election must also be prepared to continue reforming a department with a history of abuses that have put student athletes at risk.
Beekman was appointed by MSU interim president John Engler and, as a member of the MSU inner circle during the Nassar debacle, was not well placed to fix the operation.
Stanley is removing him from this position and is looking for a replacement who can handle the complex tasks that come with the sporting director’s job.
The board of directors hired Stanley to do this. His search should continue without undue interference from a body that worships heroes or politicians who have not done so well in staffing their own operations.
Latest news and more in your inbox