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LEADING QUESTIONS: Butler's Fong talks sports, Stevens

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Leading Questions

Welcome to the latest installment of  “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” where  IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about their industry and the habits that lead to success.

Bobby Fong, 60, became president of Butler University in 2001 and hit the national spotlight this spring when the men's basketball team streaked through the NCAA championship to the final game in its hometown. Fong gave 37 media interviews over a four-day period during Final Four festivities, and he also could be found hobnobbing with celebrating students.

Although hardly media fodder, Fong's achievements as president have been no less vital to the school than the high-profile exploits of Butler's hoops squad. After the university ran on deficits for more than a decade, Fong instituted financial equilibrim in the budget process and started an eight-year streak of surplus budgets beginning in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. In 2009, the school completed a six-year fundraising campaign, raising $154 million for scholarships, programs and facilities—almost $30 million more than the public goal.

In the video below, Fong discusses his Final Four experience, capped by the decision to extend basketball coach Brad Stevens' contract and pay him at a major-college level. (The contract is believed to include about $600,000 in base pay, plus bonuses that could bring its annual value close to $1 million; Fong declined to reveal details.) He also tackles the issue of generating revenue for Butler, including the steps he's not willing to take to bolster the top line.



The first American-born child of Chinese immigrants, Fong began studying baseball as a child to learn more about American culture. Today, he's on the board of the Indianapolis Indians and sports oodles of baseball memorabilia in his office on Butler's campus. In the video below, Fong shows off some of his prized possessions and finds similarities between being a university president and a team manager.

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  • Marvin Scott
    Why does Butler continue to emply the racist, homophobic, perennially losing Marvin Scott? Is their a race/gender/sexual orientation he has NOT offended in public? Why does the university continue to associate itsself with a man of such low moral character?
  • bobby fong
    Bobby Fong is an inspiring leader and a genuinely nice guy. Butler and Indianapolis are blessed by his presidency. But for full disclosure I admit to bias in his favor; because, for the sheer joy of it, Bobby organized my childhood baseball card collection, which I had not looked at in decades.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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