My Two Cents: Promoting From Within is Fine When It's the Right Guy

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — I'm a big believer in promoting from within, especially when you have the best candidate right under your nose. That's what Indiana had in Scott Dolson.

Oh sure, there were plenty of other candidates around the country who would have made a fine AD at Indiana, including some with ties to the university. But Dolson has been groomed for this job for years, and he'll be great. He's got the track record to prove it. 

Way too many people — including some in my business — simply think of Scott Dolson as one of Bob Knight's student managers, which he was back in the mid- to late-1980s. He was a manager with the 1987 national championship team, and the head manager the following year as a senior.  But that's just a footnote on his resume, not the first thing at the top. 

It has, quite frankly, very little to do with why he got this job.

The biggest reason why he was hired is because he has been Fred Glass' right-hand man for nearly 11 years, and he's been directly involved with all the good things that have gone on during Glass' tenure here. Dolson played a huge role in all the facility upgrades in practically every sport — which were desperately needed. He's been a key player in fund-raising to pay for all of those things, and his long-time service with IU Varsity Club is a big reason why he's been so successful in that area.

Oftentimes, the athletic director gets too much credit when things go well, and far too much blame when they don't. But the job has changed, especially in the past decade or two. Indiana's athletic department is a $123-million enterprise now, a massive business that's growing in leaps and bounds as the Big Ten and its member school continue to print money.

Dolson has seen it all, too, right there from the inside. He knows exactly what's going on, and he will be able to hit the ground running. Nothing that comes up will be a surprise to him. If anything, his biggest challenge might be to find a No. 2 who can do the job as well as he did.

This is a very popular hire through practically every office around the IU campus. Dolson has an active hand in most everything, especially basketball. No one knows more about how Archie Miller is running his program better than Dolson.

There are some who will say that the most important job an athletic director has is hiring the right football coach and basketball coach, and then making sure they have the facilities and recruiting budget to be successful.

Dolson will inherit Tom Allen as his football coach, and Allen has his new 7-year, $27.3 million contract that Glass negotiated as one of his last bold moves this winter. This won't be an issue, because Dolson is a huge fan of Allen's as well. Indiana won eight games for the first time in 26 years last year, and it's a program headed in the right direction for sure.

There's no question his biggest personnel decision going forward will deal with Miller, who's been at Indiana for three years now, with very modest improvements each year. The Hoosiers probably would have made the NCAA tournament this year for the first time in Miller's three years, but Miller and his team also finished 11th in the Big Ten this season, which is never acceptable in Bloomington.

Indiana's two seniors this year — Devonte Green and De'Ron Davis — were the first class since 1972 to spend four years at IU and not play a single NCAA tournament game. 

It was presumed that any new athletic director would give Miller more time to fix things, and the guess here is no different with Dolson, who is Miller's direct report and the pair have a good working relationship. Glass is still a big believer in Miller, and thinks he will coach at Indiana for a long time. What does Dolson think? That's certainly going to be an early question.

This is Indiana, and expectations are high. Indiana basketball should always be a top-five team in the Big Ten that wins conference championships now and then, is in the NCAA tournament every year and makes deep tournament runs, with the goal of a sixth national title ALWAYS there. 

That will be Dolson's biggest challenge, to be sure he has the right guy in Miller. Dolson was indeed a part of IU's last national championship team 33 years ago, so no one knows better than he does that it's been a long time since Indiana has hoisted a new banner.

Dolson, very clearly, is imbedded in Indiana's basketball community. He's very tight when former Indiana players going back 40 years and he was the sole athletic department contact that made sure Bob Knight's return on  Feb. 8 went off without a hitch. Former players — and even Coach Knight — know they trust Dolson because he is one of their own.

There can't be a more difficult time than right now to take over an athletic program, with the school practically being shut down. But that is Dolson's task. 

He'll be just fine.

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