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MSU getting it right, by not getting their first choices!

With Mark Hollis going to be named the next MSU Athletic Director, it is an interesting time to look at the last two significant athletic hires and at his.

There was no doubt amongst the leadership of MSU when JLS was terminated that they had to do something to reestablish the trust of the fan base. One of the decision makers at MSU called me on my cell phone before I could even get out of parking lot after the Ohio State fiasco, and we talked for almost an hour on Sunday after it. It was then that I told them that I was going to “make it abundantly clear” on my Monday show that it was time for a change. The source went on to inform me of how concerned the board and the President were with empty seats, and those filled with the scarlet of the Buckeyes.  One trustee told me at the time, “I was beyond concerned. It was to me the fans statement that they were at a breaking point and I knew before the game, when I walked in that we had to fix it.”

Fix it was what they decided to do eventually and when they fired JLS they had two names that they went after immediately. Steve Mariucci and Nick Saban were both talked to about the opening. Saban wasn’t interested but Mooch was. Mooch however could not take the job because of his wife’s wishes not to move back to Michigan. That said, after a lengthy and at times trying process, Saban’s influence did still affect the job when his recommendation of Dantonio was followed.

Now looking at how he has done since coming to MSU even the most hardened critic of the Dantonio hiring has to be no less than thrilled with his performance. Regardless of the bull that was thrown at the Spartan Nation by MSU itself, he was not the first choice, but he was the right choice.

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When Coach P. left for her “Dream Job” (sorry I had to step away and laugh for a moment) at Duke, MSU was again faced with a big hire. Now, the women’s basketball program costs the University millions and is, according to a source at MSU with familiarity of the numbers, “Isn’t even close to profitable.” It is, however, the signature women’s program at the University and one that they are willing to lose the revenue war on because they believe that the goodwill and publicity it can generate (I guess as long as your husband isn’t biting a cop), and I agree.

The Spartans went after Melanie Balcomb, the head coach at Vanderbilt University, and widely recognized as one of the finest women’s basketball coaches in the nation. Money ($750,000 per year) and facilities however were not enough to convince her and she chose not to be MSU’s coach.Â
Now you can go to the archives to check but the day that it was announced that P. was gone, I posted that Suzy Merchant from EMU should get the job and the Spartans came through and hired a great coach with a proven ability to win and manage the state. The MSU job has to be one that understands the state and can work well with people. After years of the program being a strain and having, shall we say, a less than a “wonderfully happy” relationship with many people, the program needed a fresh infusion. Merchant may not have been the first choice but she was the best.
Now we come to the end of the Ron Mason era. In a process that has extended over a long period of time MSU will announce that Mark Hollis will be the next AD. The decision is made and although they can say that there has been nothing formal, his appointment is the worst kept secret in the Spartan Nation since people were actually told Saban would stay.
I will be having, in a few weeks, a lengthy story on the legacy of Ron Mason and a look at his time as AD but for now we look to Mark Hollis and the choice that the board will make…officially.
Hollis was not the first choice, he was looked over before but he now steps to the table and is the right choice. He will have some significant hurdles to climb. We are all proud of MSU but it is not perfect and he will have to address some very significant issues. I will be writing on the website and reporting each night on the news starting one week from today about those issues, but for now we can say what has been said already. He may not have been the first, but he is the right choice.
I will have an article about Hollis and what he brings to the table on Friday. Like the last two hires, he may not have been the first choice but he is the best and that is what is most important to me.