Monday, June 02, 2008

¿Dónde Están los Huevos?

So much for not eulogizing.

Let me start by saying I'm not bogged down by any personal animus towards Kevin White (not that I'm accusing anyone else of it). The few times I met him, he was nothing but cordial and friendly, and I haven't met anyone who has proclaimed him a bad person. He was very accommodating to me when I wrote the book, and we had a very nice discussion at the Austin Carr induction ceremonies. Ergo, I don't feel he was any kind of an ogre or deserving of any personal criticism, and to this very minute, like him personally.

He was, however, a bad fit for Notre Dame. And while we can argue until the cows come home how involved he was or wasn't in the major issues of his tenure, they all carried one common thread that always bugged me:

With Kevin White at the bargaining table, I never got the feeling ND had any balls.

It seems in just about every fracas, discussion or discourse ND engaged in during White's time in office, the Fighting Irish ended up on the short end of the stick. They ended up paying a lot more money to Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham than they were worth, and both men left ND in much better shape financially and professionally than they should have. BCS revenues were cut, with Notre Dame losing $12 million over the last two seasons. NBC seems to have an awful lot of authority in the current contract, with some people on campus saying they're demanding more and more from the school. adidas didn't give Notre Dame the "most favored nation" status Michigan got. Nevada and SDSU were given games in order to move a game with a WAC school. Vendors have more control over ND imagery than they should. The list goes on and on.

Never in any of those situations did I feel Kevin White at least went down swinging. The impression was always we were "being good neighbors" or a similarly conciliatory position. There seemed to be more a concern about the "landscape" or the "game" or (in the case of applicable matters) the "conference" than what Notre Dame needed or wanted. And the minute there was any push-back on issues, Notre Dame seemed to be the side showing their tummy and making concessions.

I don't expect ND's athletic director to be bombastic or caustic, and I certainly understand the value of compromise. But I do expect a better batting average in negotiations than I saw in the last eight years. I also don't claim detailed knowledge of everything Kevin White had to work out in that time. But I'd expect to see more positive results if my position were not correct.

A friend of mine used to say, "You can tell a lot about a guy by the amount of blood on his shirt". I couldn't shake the impression the last eight years that Kevin White was more interested in keeping his jersey clean than he was getting results. At the very least, he seemed to have a pretty light laundry bill.

No one wins every battle, but you never win the battles you don't fight. I might be able to handle the state of affairs better if I had the impression White was fighting to the last man or had at least drawn some blood from the other side in the process. But that's never what it looked like to me. I never believed the other side walked away from the table wishing they hadn't had to give up (A) to get (B). They always looked like they were having their cake and eating it too.

One might argue KW didn't have much to work with. ND football was down, goes the response, so he had to make the best of things. Well, if ND football was down, who was responsible for that? The buck is supposed to stop on the AD's desk. If the poor state of the program was putting him in a disadvantageous position, why not do something to make the position stronger, like make better hires or be more demanding for results? Instead, we got "Sunday through Friday" and multiple examples of a lack of a "list in the drawer".

Accountability is key and results trump all. I can't think of any examples of White holding anyone accountable, nor can I cite any overwhelmingly positive results as a result of his decisions or actions. Instead, it was all about not rocking the boat and keeping everyone happy, be they ND coaches or conference mates or fellow directors.

Well, success sometimes means making people unhappy in the short term. Hopefully, White's successor will see that.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Max Fischer said...

What I found annoying was that the only time he showed any huevos was when it was either too late or didn't really matter, and, of course, he came off as arrogant when he did it, with embarrassing quotes to the media.

For instance, he chose to swing his big ones around for all to see when it came to the details of the series with UConn and Rutgers. We're Notre Dame. We're not playing unless you do it the way we say. There's a whole line of teams waiting to play us on those terms if you won't agree.

Way to show some spine. Now where was that bravado when it came to agreeing to play three Big East teams per year in the first place?

6/02/2008 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say that I am not at all sad to see KW leave. So many errors were made with the football program, we are still cleaning the egg whites off the dome. During this tenure, we have seen Davie, Willingham, George O, and Charlie hired to lead the most storied football program in the country. Only one, Charlie, was the proper hire, and the other three showed how the lack of attention to detail can cost a program such as ND years of turmoil.
Also, during those eight years, we saw Adidas use football clips for their new deodorant commercials and pull away the best brand endorsement deal in the country and move it north to Ann Arbor. We have seen the Irish play a Big East light schedule (a KW guarantee to the BE commish) and turned down meaningful games with Alabama, Miami, and future games with Texas, and a series with Oklahoma. We saw KW negotiate down our payout for BCS games from a $12 million share to a 1.2 million dollar guarantee. I always thought the purpose of negotiating was to better improve your position, not limit it so everyone else feels better. Once you give something away, you never get it back in negotiations (ask PM Chamberlin when dealing with Hitler in WWII).
I do hope KW has success at Duke, but I am only concerned with ND’s next AD and the position he or she will take in preserving the history, tradition, and regaining the elite status ND used to display in college athletics. I only hope that in the next AD tenure, we become the fighting Irish again, not just ND.

6/02/2008 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Bedbug Eddie said...

I can point to two things that irritated me about Kevin White's tenure at Notre Dame...The lack of real support for the hockey program is an utter disgrace..He should have made it a personal crusade and priority #1 on his agenda since early 2007... The rescheduling of a Mountain West(not WAC) team, BYU, and the subsequent addition of two other MWC teams, Nevada & SDSU, only accomplished 2 things....BYU got fired up because ND was perceived to be using BYU as a warmup for Michigan and then it had to dumb down two already lackluster home schedules in 2008 and 2009... Why not schedule 2 road basketball dates at BYU and Nevada each over 3 years to throw them a bone?? Both are excellent non-conference road dates on anybody's hoops schedule...Maybe even play Nevada in Las Vegas over Christmas break?? Why not play San Diego State as part of the shitstorming tour, even if SDSU gets the home gate, but with 35,000 ND fans in Qualcomm Stadium?? FYI, I think Bill Scholl would clearly be the best candidate if ND stays in-house, which would be highly unlikely IMHO

6/02/2008 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin White was a good athletic director...he did a lot for ND's athletic programs in terms of the olympic sports and updating the facilities. Even at ND...I dont think an AD should focus only on football. So...25 out of our 26 athletic programs improved under him...I would say that is pretty successful. While our football team has often struggled during his time at ND, he made it more competitive by increasing coaches salaries and improving the facilites. Most of the people who post on this site complain that our team isnt winning national championships. I think he attempted to help achieve that by making a schedule more favorable...and everyone on this site complained about it. It seems nothing pleases the people who post comments on this website. He made a mistake in hiring George O'leary and giving Davie a contract extension. Overall...I think he did a good job, and I think when people look back on his career ten years from now he will be remembered as a good AD.

6/02/2008 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Not to be argumentative, but how did 25 out of 26 programs improve?

Three coaches have won national titles at ND during his time, and I don't believe he hired any of them. Some argue that a couple sports, baseball and softball in particular, have suffered a bit in the past couple of years due to the coaches KW hired. Hockey has improved, but by all accounts, Jackson pursued ND not the other way around. It's only recently that the funding has been realized for badly-needed improvements in physical plant, and they're still waiting on hockey's money. And it's not like ND has suddenly skyrocketed in the Director's Cup standings.

6/02/2008 07:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent piece.

An ND AD should speak softly in public but like Teddy Roosevelt wield a big stick in private. In point of fact Dr. K never realized that ND is the 600 pound gorilla of college football and not some ASU-like second tier institution and FB program.

For someone like Dr. K who reverred numbers, I never understood how he couldn't see that 75 year long truth and data set. Indeed it was for lack of huevos.

What's equally, if not more, bothersome is the lack of huevos on the BOT and adminstration under both Monk and Jenkins not to launch this $25M namby pamby.

They only saved a couple hundred thousand per year in contract termination costs by not launching him in 2004 or earlier. Penny wise and pound foolish is how I'd describe this C$C penchant for stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

6/02/2008 08:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

White did hire Janusz Bednarski (fencing), one of the three coaches to win national titles during White's administration (Bednarski won two in his first three seasons). To be technically accurate, Bednarski was the top assistant to Yves Auriol, and when Auriol retired, White promoted Bednarski.

Fencing has been lucky in that they have had three head coaches since 1962, and a rock-solid succession plan in place since Auriol became head women's coach and Mike DeCicco's assistant for the men's team in 1986. Certainly, White can't be credited with creating this situation, but it at least has been maintained over the last eight years.

6/02/2008 08:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe Schaefer said...

Let's not forget why White was hired in the first place. It had nothing to do with his prowess as an AD. Rather, it was about his ability to take on scandals at Tulane and Arizona State. Based on the recommendation of Dan Devine (he who was out job hunting at ASU and Michigan State while he was the head coach at Notre Dame)White was hired to take care of the Beauchamp / Kimberly Dunbar problem. This guy is the consummate athletics bureaucracy technician as evidenced by his involvement with all of these alphabet-soup collegiate sports administrator groups. No problem. He'll have plenty of time to indulge these pursuits. Joe Schaefer '59 Universal City Texas

6/02/2008 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous shoelesspaul said...

I don't agree with the prevailing sentiment on NDNation with respect to White, but this is a good analysis.

6/02/2008 09:50:00 PM  
Blogger DauntlessDave said...

What's sad id that this guy is getting credit in some media outlets for success in the baseball program and for a couple of NC's in Women's sports.

The fact of the matter is, those coaches were all in place before White and it also detracts from the fact that Missy Conboy actually was riding heard over the women's sports.

It's been said before - Kevin White is the essence of an empty suit. The fact that he tries to sell it otherwise. In that regard, he is the same persona as Tyrone Willingham.

I think it was Uncle Rico that said it best....Kevin White is Mr. Haney from Green Acres, in disguise.

6/02/2008 11:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is, those coaches were all in place before White and it also detracts from the fact that Missy Conboy actually was riding heard over the women's sports.

Um, not quite. Tony Yelovich oversees women's soccer and Bernard Muir oversaw fencing (currently Brian Boulac oversees fencing).

6/03/2008 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

KW was never a strong external advocate for ND athletics. He was an apologist like the apologist who hired him. We got walked on, stepped over and used by every Ty, Bob and Urban who played any sort of hardball, even 382 dimple hardball. His lack of advocacy fostered and enhanced the chinese firedrill environment everytime his actual job needed to be done.

White's cushy landing belies the fact that his heart was never really 100% with ND. He used our AD position and gave away our interests to enhance his standing with other bureaucrats, just like his first boss. He never believed ND was capable of excellence or deserving of uniqueness. I Thank God there are still enough people around who won't settle for our University being represented by apologists. No matter how good the hors douevres and cocktails, mediocracy is for sucks,.

6/03/2008 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous knute-hampshire said...

Apparently White's failures with the football program are so complete and incontrovertible that we now have to be subjected to debate over whether or not he hired the fencing coach. With all due respect to the coaches and athletes in the less high-profile sports, if this is the sort of argument being posited by his defenders, then I think it's safe to say his departure is indeed a good thing for the school.

6/03/2008 08:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I tend to agree with this analysis regarding KW's negotiating skills, it is also clear that he didn't have the power usually afforded an AD, especially in football (Monk wanted O'Leary, KW didn't want to fire Willingham, questionable as to whether KW wanted Tom Clements over Weis). As mad as I was about the BCS guaranteed money, how do we know that was KW's doing, and not an order from above? It wouldn't have been the first thing Monk screwed up while President. He may have been more of a puppet than we ever could have realized. If KW lacked balls as indicated in this analysis, maybe it's because they were taken away from him by the good fathers and BOT. If this is true, God help us in finding a competent replacement. Why would Gene Smith, albeit an alum, want to come to ND if he would have less power than he has at tOSU?

6/03/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that Kevin White presided over three of ND's most public embarrassments: the George O'Leary hire, the Ty Willingham hire, and the Urban Meyer non-hire. I'm ecstatic to have Charlie, but remember how we all felt when Kevin got the rub pulled out from under him in Provo. Plus, he just never really got Notre Dame. Hiring TW was a mistake from Day 1. The FIRST requirement of any ND football coach must be that he loves ND and has reverence for its traditions. KW and TW had to read books about ND to play catch up, and they never got chills when they saw the Dome or the Grotto. Now go hire a Notre Dame man in the Moose Kraus mold!

6/03/2008 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Denis Nolan said...

For what it's worth, let's look at Kevin White as an athletic director who anticipates and has a feel for and knowledge of coaches:

1. He "stole" Bruce Snyder from Cal when Cal was not intending to renew Snyder's contract.
2. He wandered across the country talking to basketball coaches for over two weeks because he didn't know who was interested. He went all the way to Italy to talk to Carlissimo on his honeymoon, only to be turned down cold.
3. He finally hired Brey only after losing his "perfect hire", Matt Doherty, after just one season.
4. He gave Bob Davies a three year extension, only to fire him the next year and have to pay off the extended contract.
5. He did the same thing with football that he had done with basketball, wandering the nation talking to coaches who weren't interested because he had no clue as to who was interested.
6. He hired George O'Leary because "he seemed out of central casting for the job", only to let him go after one week because he had not adequately checked the man's background.
7. He was then contacted by Willingham (to whom he had talked) and was shocked to find out that Willingham wanted the job. He said that he hadn't realized he was interested.

At ASU he was known as a man who could bring in the money, not as a man who was good in the role of an AD. He proved that to be true.

6/03/2008 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I think all in all the common theme is correct - nice guy not a good AD in the least. Remember however it was the administration who ok'd White. This is where the focus of attention needs to be at this point. PC correctness defined White's tenure which reflects the administration and ND's theology.

All in all on the mark except the comment on Irish George O'Leary. He was the guy for the job and a perfect fit for the Irish! White's failure to defend him after the hack piece written about his resume' was disgraceful. Irish George was hired based on his merits - not on the accuracy of his resume!

6/03/2008 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Geaux Irish said...

The only time where KW brought his balls was when he played chicken with Michigan last year around renewing the schedule.

Michigan wanted to flip the years they were at home, but KW stood his ground, got OU to sign-on for a two-game series, which forced UM into a corner to accept ND's terms.

It's not heroic, but it was a rare, nice showing.

6/03/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3. He finally hired Brey only after losing his "perfect hire", Matt Doherty, after just one season.

Mike Wadsworth, not Kevin White, hired Matt Doherty.

6/03/2008 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the coaches and athletes in the less high-profile sports, if this is the sort of argument being posited by his defenders, then I think it's safe to say his departure is indeed a good thing for the school.

Striving for factual accuracy ought not to be seen as a "defense" of White. He should be given credit, or blame, for things he actually did. He also should not be given "blame" for hiring Matt Doherty when it was Mike Wadsworth who did so.

6/03/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent analysis of Kevin White's failings -- which, I suppose, dovetails with what I view as the short-end-of-the-stick that he got with regard to his hires.

Am I imagining things, or didn't he "hire" Jon Gruden and Rick Majerus only to have Rev. Malloy and his lackeys pull the rug out from under him? That they could pull the rug out from under him goes to the heart of the analysis -- but I would venture to say his tenure would be viewed a lot differently if Gruden and Majerus were coaching football and basketball right now.

6/03/2008 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Fencing.....why do I care about Fencing.....point is ND is college football is ND.....if he improves 25 of 26 sports and leaves the crown jewel of the athletic department in a precarious position time after time after time....he has failed. his only remaining chance at history not viewing him as a below average AD for ND is what happens with his last football hire, Charlie Weis.

BTW....Just read that Digger has interest.....thanks but no thanks Digger...we need a football man.

6/03/2008 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huevos are eggs and Güevos are balls. So your heading should read, "¿Dónde Están los Güevos? And it is pronounced Goo-weh-vos

6/03/2008 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I imagining things, or didn't he "hire" Jon Gruden and Rick Majerus only to have Rev. Malloy and his lackeys pull the rug out from under him?

The story I heard was that Wadsworth and Bubba Cunningham (his assistant on the basketball search to replace MacLeod) had Majerus ready to sign. Malloy then pulled the rug out from under them, humiliating Majerus in the process. This might have related back to the Joe Moore suit, which everyone wanted to settle (including Wadsworth, an extremely accomplished lawyer in Canada), but that Malloy insisted on taking to trial.

Chastened, Wadsworth and Cunningham then went to their second option -- hire the hottest young assistant coach in the country. That was Matt Doherty.

6/03/2008 08:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought that if I ever got a divorce, my ex wife's lawyer would be like Kevin White.

6/03/2008 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

''a dogs balls are cut only once--guatemalan proverb "show me who you get in a foxhole with in a fight to the end ! a mans choices of other man can be irrevocable - wrong choices get you killed with a head football coach or your ''friends'' athelon lists this years fourth weis team as 4 and 8 - if weis losses to michigan micigan state purdue bc nc and butch davis and washington against ty - with the best university in the land paying both fools -fire him in seattle and let weis follow dr white to duke with tenuta and haywood notre dame can beat sc

6/03/2008 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The President of Duke threw the Lacrosse team, program and coachs under the bus before the investigation was completed possibly even started. This is in my opinion, the perfect PC situs for the good Doctor.

6/04/2008 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I'm not overly upset about White leaving, I don't agree with all of your argument. Sure, Kevin botched some deals by being too passive, but just because we are ND doesn't mean we have to act like hot sh*t and play everyone at home or not play them at all. Let's grow some balls as a program and go play teams like Oklahoma or go play AT Rutgers instead of a home/neutral site deal, and beat them. I'm tired of seeing our schedule weaken. As the program continues to rise, lets go back to the glory days and play and beat all of the top programs and quiet all the naysayers.

6/04/2008 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt this defense will resonate with much of NDNation, but please keep in mind the lack of control Dr. White had over the athletic department, especially after Fr. Jenkins became President. KW's shopping around the last few years for a new post, as well as his departure to Duke, had much more to do with his lack of control of the athletic department than it did anything else. He wasn't able to make the decisions for which he had to answer...and, ultimately, take the blame. Would you want to be in that position?

As for football, his track record wasn't great, but it wasn't as bad as this thread makes it appear. As Chris pointed out, O'Leary absolutely was the right man for the job. Look at the success he has had with the Vikings and at UCF. KW's failure was not defending him...although we don't know to what extent he truly was able to back his man to the administration. And while Ty revealed himself to be the wrong coach for our football team, it was a brilliant hire at the time solely for PR reasons. Who would dare criticize ND for hiring it's first African American coach? To do so would have been completely un-PC. It took the focus off the O'Leary debacle and thrust ND into the national spotlight for "good" reasons.

Granted, KW didn't want to fire Ty, but the BOT made the decision for him (a good thing), as they did in the hiring of Charlie (presumably a good thing). The scheduling of Big East opponents was problematic (as has been pointed out numerous times on this website), but you can't knock the man for his negotiating skills at the BCS table when Wadsworth reportedly squandered much of our standing through his strong-arm tactics prior to White. The BCS folk are much like Washington insiders - they respond to schmoozing and slaps on the back. For all we know, KW did the best with what he was dealt. Was it ideal? Absolutely not. But until we have a team that can place in the top-10 year in and year out, ND football will be perceived as a weaker "brand" than it was during the Holtz years. Money talks, and we had a weaker position because of what happened under the Canadian lawyer's tenure.

Our best bet for a successful AD will be someone who can handle the current administration while being able to accomplish what's best for ND football and the rest of the athletic department. Until Fr. Jenkins ceases his micro-managing, I fear we'll continue to debate many of the same issues.

Class of '01

6/05/2008 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I think it's completely asinine to state that "college football is ND" and imply that no one cares about the other sports, in this instance, fencing. Its true that they're not as popular, but without the success ND has had recently across the board - both soccer programs, women's basketball, hockey and, yes, fencing - what would we as the student body have to hold on to during the ND Football Fiasco that was the '07 season. I think I speak on behalf of the student body when I say football is king at ND, but it's not the whole court.

PS in no way am I saying White had anything to do with the success of these non-marquis sports. I think the the description of White as an able businessman and nice guy is more accurate than saying he is a "good AD".

6/06/2008 10:05:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home