Do you remember the exchange in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” where Mike Damone is talking to Rat about being shy when approaching a certain female classmate?
“I can see it all now, this is gonna be just like last summer,” Damone said. “You fell in love with that girl at the Fotomat, you bought $40 worth of (bleeping) film and you never even talked to her. You don’t even own a camera.”
It reminds me of UNLV’s search for an athletic director.
Fiscally speaking, something those at UNLV should always be cognizant of in a responsible manner, one dollar spent in pursuing anyone other than two local names to replace Jim Livengood would be colossal waste.
It would chasing someone for the sake of it, spending university dollars on a search that shouldn’t look beyond Las Vegas.
It would be buying a bunch of film when you don’t even own a camera.
I was dead wrong about Livengood. Said it. Wrote it. Believe it. He proved a far better athletic director than I predicted upon his hiring. I respect the heck out of him, hated to see him go and wasn’t the least impressed with the (non) reasons UNLV president Neal Smatresk offered (or didn’t) for the departure (firing) of Livengood.
But much as I wrote before Livengood arrived in 2009, and believe even more today, UNLV athletics would best be run by a local candidate.
Specifically, one of the following two men: Steve Stallworth or Don Logan.
Do you want the ideal structure for UNLV athletics, one that would have the best chance to succeed: Make either Stallworth or Logan the leading face of the department and have interim athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy run day-to-day operations as an associate.
Here’s why ...
A suggestion to those on the search committee: Know what UNLV is. Understand where you live. Realize that the foremost responsibility of any collegiate athletic director is to raise money for his or her department, especially one that for years has faced consistent budget cuts and a contentious relationship with the Thomas & Mack Center, along with those university officials who dictate major financial decisions for athletics.
Las Vegas isn’t about new money. There isn’t any of it. The same people who would have thought about supporting athletics in, say, the late 1980s, are very much the same families and businesses Stallworth or Logan would have the best opportunity convincing today.
For it to prosper financially in the coming years, UNLV athletics should be run by Stallworth, the former Rebels quarterback and current South Point Equestrian Complex and Arena director; or Logan, the president/COO of the 51s.
Each is extremely well liked locally, incredibly well connected throughout the community, able to fundraise in spots UNLV hasn’t reached. Each has a deep passion for UNLV and wants nothing more than athletics to prosper in the coming years more than any time in its history.
These are intelligent, creative men whose contacts would open doors UNLV either hasn’t or can’t today.
I don’t know all details about why Kunzer-Murphy stepped down as executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl last year, but it would be disingenuous to suggest she departed either on her terms or on amicable ones with all involved, or that she hasn’t had major issues with UNLV in the past. She has.
But she loves the university and it’s obvious Smatresk has confidence in her. She reorganized the department recently, which meant demotions and salary cuts for some, and that’s never a good thing for those affected.
Some good people received bad news last week, difficult to hear and yet hardly a fresh concept in these economic times.
But it’s also standard procedure to have an interim athletic director be the bad guy (or, in this case, woman) and make what are deemed by many as unpopular moves so as not to leave such dirty work to whoever is hired on a full-time basis.
Know also this: Those above Kunzer-Murphy, presumably Smatresk and senior vice president for finance and business Gerry Bomotti, instigated the demotions and salary cuts. She just followed orders by carrying them out.
One’s popularity around the water cooler shouldn’t be the chief reason for why a person is best suited to run daily operations. Tough decisions need to be made, ones that potentially change the lives of employees and their families but that need to happen for the overall health of a department.
It’s not an easy job, but given the faith Smatresk has already displayed with Kunzer-Murphy, it would make the most sense that she should be second in command to the athletic director. She has a deep understanding of the inner-working of college athletics and could play the role of bad cop when needed. Sorry, you need that. It’s vitally important to have someone willing to be unpopular for the betterment of an intended mission.
That’s big picture thinking for a department many often feel exhibits small-time ideals.
UNLV isn’t Michigan or Notre Dame or UCLA or Oregon or Florida. It’s different. The town is different. Know who are. Understand where you live and who best could raise money for athletics.
Steve Stallworth. Don Logan. I spoke with neither for this column. Didn’t ask their opinion. Didn’t care to. Either would take the job and dedicate every waking moment to making UNLV athletics as good as it could possibly be.
It’s on the university to pick up the telephone.
The choice has to be one of them or you can be assured of this: Three years from now, when yet another athletic director hired from the outside has become fed up with the old boys network that defines Las Vegas and has pulled out the remaining hairs on his or her head from dealings with the Thomas & Mack or is found at odds with the Smatresk/Bomotti duo, UNLV will find itself right back in this same position.
Searching for the right person, who was under its nose the entire time.
For once, make the easy decision. In this case, the right one.
Stallworth or Logan.
For once, quit buying film when you don’t even own a camera.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.