Is next IU AD obvious choice?

June 27, 2008
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laziuNow that Rick Greenspan has announced his resignation, it’s time to start speculating on who the next Indiana University athletic director will be. As a news reporter, I try hard not to interject my opinion. But to start this conversation, I’d like to throw out what I think is one obvious candidate. John Laskowski.

I know a lot of people have called for an IU guy to be installed as basketball and/or football coach or any number of other positions, and I’ve never subscribed to that school of thought. We all saw how well that worked out with football coach Cam Cameron. But if there’s a position within the school’s athletic department that calls for an IU guy, it’s that of athletic director. Here’s why.

A very smart man who was once a three-term mayor of a mid-sized south central Indiana city once told me that the main job of the mayor is to get the garbage picked up weekly and the streets cleared of snow in the winter. Essentially, he said, it’s a public relations job. You put good lieutenants in the right positions to handle much of the day-to-day work, he concluded.

The same could be said about the athletic director. Lately at IU, the trash hasn’t been picked up, and it’s starting to stink--even all the way up here in Indianapolis. The AD position is about opening lines of communication, building consensus and raising funds. Greenspan was obviously not the right candidate for any of that. His idea of open communications was waiting for the media to file public access requests, which seems to be happening in Bloomington on a regular basis these days.

I know there are those who will argue that he is not qualified to manage an athletic department with a nearly $50 million  budget, but I think Laskowski is almost tailor-made for the AD job. As a guard on the 1975 Bob Knight-led IU basketball team, he has the connections to mend the fences torn down under Greenspan and his predecessor, Mike McNeely. I think he would instill some sorely needed discipline into the program. He has shown solid judgment during his time at IU and since his graduation. He has a Hoosier sensibility that has been sorely missing in Bloomington for eight years. Lastly, I think he respects Knight, but I don’t think he’s a crony, and he’d probably do the job for a lot less than McNeely or Greenspan commanded.

Most importantly, Laskowski may be one of the few guys who actually wants the job. He did in 2000, when McNeely was hired away from the San Diego Chargers. Here’s why Laskowski said he was qualified for the job in 2000.

“No. 1, I’m a fan of Indiana. No. 2, I’m a graduate. And No. 3, I’m a guy who's been around here 30 years,” Laskowski said. “If I were selected, it would be a transition that I'm already used to doing, working here at the university.”

I’m sure Laskowski’s logic seemed a little too simple for IU trustees who have a habit out of turning four-function mathematics into quantum physics. In addition to playing hoops for IU, Laskowski, 55, also spent more than 25 years doing broadcast work for IU basketball telecasts. Laskowski also served as vice president of marketing and membership for IU’s Alumni Association. He’s even been known to be a regular at local weekly Kiwanis meetings. In 2005, Laskowski took a job with Marsh Inc., a division of Chicago-based Seabury & Smith, a company that sells insurance and financial services to alumni associations. But he still maintains a local presence.

If you think Laskowski merely has men’s basketball on his mind, think again. Eight years ago, he said some of his top goals included increasing attendance at football games and improving promotion of secondary sports--especially women’s sports at IU.

I know nationwide--even worldwide--searches for job candidates are all the rage these days. Those types of searches have netted IU the likes of Adam Herbert, McNeely and Greenspan. I just hope an obvious candidate in IU’s own backyard doesn’t get overlooked-again. I’ve told you what I think. Please, tell me what you think.
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  • Very sound thinking. I agree, it would be a marvelous move for all concerns. But, as you mentioned, 'quantum physics' will probably prevail. In the past few years at IU it has both disappointed and amazed me how the various selection committee 'brain trusts' in search of qualified personnel, be they academic or athletic, have felt the 'need' to turn over every palmetto bush, palm tree, and rock in order to find qualified people. Quite frankly, any institution as large as IU should not have to look elsewhere for leadership, at any level. In doing so, it says loud and clear YOUR institution is NOT turning out high level graduates. The Adam Herbert experiment is a great example.
  • As an IU graduate and former staffer with the IU Alumni Association, I give a resounding YES! to Laskowski. I agree with GeorgeOrwell--if IU doesn't seriously consider an alum it does speak loudly about their respect for the IU degree.
  • What about Jack Swarbrick? Jack Swarbrick's clients have included individual athletes, owners of sports teams, and organizations which sanction or conduct athletic competitions. He has served as general counsel for numerous National Governing Bodies of Olympic sports including USA Gymnastics and USRowing. As a result of these representations and his extensive experience as an event organizer (see civic activities identified below), Jack has also served as a consultant to communities hosting or desiring to attract athletic events. He formerly served as the President and CEO of LMiV, LLC.

    He's a Stanford / Notre Dame Law guy, so not Cream & Crimson, but a lawyer who gets sports and can clean up the program might be a good direction.

    That, coupled with a guy who understands the past, lives in the present, and has great vision for the future might be a good fit down in B-Town.

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong.
  • You gotta be kidding. The athletic program is a HUGE business with a level of complexity that is beyond Laz's experience or skill. It's about hiring, building and operating facilities, managing a huge staff, fund raising. There's nothing in Laz's background to prepare him for that. Sports administrators acquire skills for multiple demands - they don't just broadcast ball games and sell insurance.
  • Laskowski... brilliant!

    Case closed. Knows the school, loves the school, is a likable and respected figure, has the smarts and is PR ready, speaks well, a nice combo of characteristics for an AD.

    Never even crossed my mind, but sometimes the most obvious/simple choice is the best.

    I emailed the trustees my coaching list as they began their search for a new coach. Not saying I have ANY clout at all, but ironically 2 names that were high on my list of 8-10 coaches were: Tony Bennett and Tom Crean, umm, let's just say both came into play.

    Articles like this one sometimes make it to the Trustees and by getting the word out early, you'd be surprised how the tail can wag the dog and shake up the search from the ground up (because when the top 'execs' make decisions behind closed doors without input, we all know it might not turn out well).

    Well done, great idea... JOHN LASKOWSKI HAS MY VOTE!
  • B-Town Mom,

    An AD surrounds himself with people that handle the many of the details. He directs much of the activities, but also acts as a liason between IU Athletics and the Fanbase. Joe Emptysuit or Richard Nobodylikes might not resonate with fans, donors, coaches, his staff, players, etc... It would also be nice if IU had a really good business school to possibly get a solid mind to run the business side of things... oh it does? Nice, even better. And AD is a figure head. Needs to know the numbers and business operations, but also needs to have the rest of the package (something Greenspan did not have). If handled right and surrounded by the right people, it could work out well. So no... he wasn't kidding you.
  • I worked along side of John as a student and Assistant in the Alumni Association. I like his demeanor, he has great vision and would be a great public face for Athletics. Running that department is like being a Mayor, you have all of the different sports (departments) with the coached manageing it (Department Heads). The Mayor of a town doesn't run the finances he oversees it and gives it direction ( just as the AD does not manage the day to day task of the finances. It is a public Relations person, to drum up donor support. He knows a lot of people within the Alumni Community and around the world who would be at his side in a moments notice (most noteable - mayors have these go to guys as well to help them run a struggling city or department). Intriguing suggestion of Laz. I think it could be a good fit.
  • I think Laz would be a good choice but I also think that Barry Collier should be a possible consideration. Look what he did for Butler as a coach and then what he did for Nebraska. He has already done some very good things for Butler as AD. He made it clear from day one there for the Athletic Department to be the best it can be (in his words) - “It demands commitment, denies selfishness, accepts reality and seeks constant improvement. How much of those things have the last 2 guys
    demonstrated?

    Here is another quote of his just a couple of weeks into the AD job at Butler about the coaches and staff he said - “I just want them to know that we intend to be a championship-seeking athletic department in everything that we do. We do not want that to go unsaid. It sets the bar. Goals are good, but you have to have the work to go with that. Our staff is already doing that. I am just here behind them.”

    Two things he has over Laz is he has coached for 30 years and he has experience now as an AD.

    It may be that as much as he loves Butler he might not want to leave but then there is the step up in both money and prestige.
  • This is what has been written about one of the better Big Ten ADs, Morgan Burke at Purdue. Burke has been called the athletics director who came down from the grandstands because he was an avid fan and member of the John Purdue Club long before he was appointed to lead Intercollegiate Athletics in 1992. He studied industrial engineering at Purdue and worked at Inland Steel. What does that background have to do with athletic administration. It's not rocket science. But Burke is extremely approachable and has proven to be a great community relations man, and thus a very solid fundraiser. Moreover he stands for everything Purdue wants to stand for. I think there are some parallels between he and Laskowski. But there again, given IU trustees' history, maybe this is too obvious.
  • I like your suggestion. I think Laz has just what IU needs at this time. After the fiasco of the past few years in Bloomington (Miles Brand,Adam Herbert, Sampson, et al) they need someone who really understands what Indiana University Athletics is all about.
  • Great suggestion!!!! I think Laz fits the bill. I believe Chris Reynolds is also still in the Athletic Administration and has been for several years, perhaps he is a candidate.
  • Laskowski may be the worst selection possible.
    1) he is so tied to knight that is will cause a distraction. think not...notice how as a sportscaster he referred to knight as COACH, and when talking with davis or sampson he called them by MIKE and KELVIN. obvious bias in newscasting that is very unprofessional.
    2) he is and was the worst sportscaster, and despite the fact he has kept that job, it clearly is an indication that likely lacks qualifications as athletic director.
    3) he lobbied for the job the last time, and rightfully wasn't selected.

    ties to IU are wonderful. but the one selected must be an independent thinker.
  • Laskowski is a great suggestion. Some stability in the IU Athletic Program would be nice...we're on our 5th Bball coach, 5th football coach, and 4th AD in the last decade+. I disagree w/ Michael Arnolt. If Laz has proven anything, it is that he is a professional. I've worked w/ many teachers over the years who I refer to by their first name, yet when I recently saw my 3rd grade teacher who i hadn't seen in over 20 years I called her Mrs. O'Connor. He calls him Coach because he was HIS coach.
  • Michael, you, like many, have registered your complaints. Now it's time to come forward and make a suggestion. Who do you think would make a good IU AD?

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