Monday, June 11, 2012

weekend review

File another one in the we-can't-have-nice-things-around-here department: on Sunday, the UVA Board of Visitors announced it had fired our very popular and very new school president.**  Teresa Sullivan will be president only just long enough to wrap things up and hand off to an interim president, and will be gone before the students get back to school.

The BOV's email to alums shed as much light on the decision as a broken flashlight, which was disappointment piled on top of disappointment because when you're going to fire a highly popular school president, "philosophical differences" just don't cut it.  Naturally the BOV is in a tough place there because it's bad form to air the dirty laundry, but claiming a need for "bold and visionary" leadership is the academic equivalent of "giving 110% percent."  At least when a coach is fired, you know bloody well why and don't need to be told.  A slightly stronger explanation would've been appreciated here, and the impromptu press conference as posted on YouTube is so useless in that department that I'm not even going to bother linking; it would imply that watching it would not be a waste of 3:47, and that would be false.

Fortunately, the UVA staff was treated to that slightly stronger explanation, and that too was posted online.  Cutting through the bullshit essentially reveals the BOV thought Sullivan wasn't a strong enough fundraiser.  A fair enough reason, I suppose, to make a change in leadership, but it speaks to a giant failure in leadership (and not in the president's chair) when you hire a president while the economy is gasping for breath, and you can't look two years into the future and see the need for fundraising.  Perhaps they were spoiled by John Casteen, who could've tossed two quarters at a homeless guy and extracted a donation pledge of five dollars in the process.

What the BOV is basically saying here, then, is that the president is not an academician, but a money factory.  There's hardly any need to hire a PhD for the position if you can't appreciate Sullivan's efforts in that regard; she even taught a class herself, and her husband is a law professor who was added to the faculty.  As a leader, you couldn't have asked for better.  Sullivan didn't see herself as a resident of the ivory tower.  Anecdote: when I learned she was hired at UVA, being that she came from Michigan I posted a question on the U-M boards to see if there'd be anyone who knew anything about her.  As it turned out I accidentally broke the news to her staff, a member of whom had nothing but glowing words about the kind of boss she was.  By all reports she was no less a boss - and accessible president to boot - at UVA.  These qualities, apparently, do not go appreciated.  Or they do as long as they're accompanied by the ability to gladhand your way to El Dorado.

This is an athletic blog, so here's the athletic viewpoint: UVA just fired its own biggest fan.  Sullivan was spotted in Baltimore when the lacrosse team was winning a national title, and in Omaha when the diamond nine were in the College World Series.  She was there to congratulate the rowing team on its national titles, and she was there to congratulate the club polo team on theirs.  The club polo team.  She said at her introductory press conference that a school president ought to know the difference between a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense, and she frequented the JPJA on winter nights.  Maybe she should've spent all that time fundraising instead.  Worse yet: in the sports world we're at a time when UVA's sports teams need a strong voice helping to keep the ACC together and position the school for the best should the worst happen.  And right as the ACC is having an identity crisis, we have no advocate anymore.  Let's hope the summer passes uneventfully.

**They used the same wording that the school did in announcing the departure of Dave Leitao: "mutual agreement" to step down etc. etc.  Gee, how lucky we are at UVA that the people we no longer want to employ just up and fire themselves.


-- Sean Doolittle, who was for UVA baseball fans what we thought was the pinnacle of moundsman prowess until Danny Hultzen came along, made his MLB debut for the Oakland A's this past week.  I wouldn't consider the news that notable - over the next few years we should have a decent showing of MLB debuts, almost all of them with Seattle - but the way he's announced his presence is something else.  On Tuesday he struck out the first three hitters he faced.  On Friday he faced four batters and let two of them score; on Sunday, he faced six and struck out five.  Nine Ks in four innings; if Nolan Ryan had kept up that pace he'd've recorded over 12,000 of them.

Chances are that when the AL gets its book on Doc, he'll come back down to earth.  For now, though, it's the kind of debut any pitcher would love.

-- Another decent, down-to-earth read on the FSU/Big 12 situation.  You'll notice a lot of that furor has died down, and thank heaven for that.  Andy Haggard, the blabbermouth chairman of the FSU board of trustees, is now the former chairman, and the new chairman is being a lot more prudent in his words.  The Big 12 meetings came and went last week and expansion was not on the menu.  It would seem, if previous guesses were accurate, that Texas got its way yet again.  Surprise.

This week and next, more BCS meetings are being held, and it won't be long before some substantive announcements appear instead of the half-assed leaks designed to gin up public support and leverage for one side or another in whatever debate they're having.  Expect the announcement to set off at least another round of speculation, but keep your eye on how Notre Dame is treated in the deal.

-- You can tell this is a blog about the University of Virginia because I just used six paragraphs on the change of occupancy at Carr's Hill.  How many SEC fans know who their school's president is, and of that number, what percentage cares?


Daniel A said...

It is Jeff Allen's birthday! I hope you give him a warm FOV Happy Birthday today

Anonymous said...

How is Sullivan fired but Gordon Gee's still president?


Brendan said...

Because we have to put up with Helen Dragas while Gordon Gee only reports to Jim Tressel.