by Kent Sterling
There are four attributes great leaders share – vision, enthusiasm, organization, and relentlessness. Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass shows plenty of all three in the above video without conscious effort.
Being an AD is a tough gig these days. Less than six months ago, Rutgers had a athletic director who appeared to be doing a hell of a job. Tim Pernetti helped the school gain entry into the Big Ten, and negotiated other positive deals for the Scarlet Knights. Videos surfaced that showed basketball coach Tim Rice berating and abusing players, and despite the fact that he lobbied hard for Rice to be fired when he first saw the tape, Pernetti was cut loose along with Rice and the university’s in-house legal counsel.
It would be understandable for Glass to spend the majority of his day trying fortify his bunker so that when the bullets started flying, he would be protected. Instead, he works to improve the experience of being a Hoosier for his athletes, and to make attending events featuring those athletes more fun for fans.
That’s where Glass being relentless comes into play. Leaders who constantly tear down and rebuild tend to win. Refusing to accept dogma as physics is critical, and rejecting easy decisions because inertia demands them is both difficult and rewarding.
Glass has spent the last eight months engaged in a process to enhance gamedays for players and fans, and his leadership in that process will make the experience fans who head to Bloomington the next five weekends for home games against Indiana State (Thursday), Navy (September 7), Bowling Green (September 14), Missouri (September 21), and Penn State (October 5) different, unique, and fun.
People who buy tickets should expect something more than a version of the football game that trumps the experience of watching at home, and that will be the result of seven months of brainstorms, meetings, and gathering input. Going to see IU play football is not going to be like it was back in the 1980s when the only thing that was special were Lee Corso called quick kicks, Sam Wyche designing awful helmets, and Bill Mallory somehow rebuilding a dead program.
That’s the most obvious evidence of Glass’s work, but I don’t remember a time when Indiana University had so many reasons to be proud of it’s teams and athletes. Men’s soccer wins a National Championship, baseball goes to the College World Series, and IU comes within an eyelash of winning the Capitol One Cup. A trip to a bowl this year, and basketball moving beyond the Sweet Sixteen would be welcome enhancements, but, you know, baby steps.
And there is more. The Excellence Academy is going to continue to grow as a wonderful point of differentiation for student-athletes at Indiana. Where other schools use the skills and talents of their athletes to feather their own nests, Indiana embraces its role in the development of the human being under the helmet or on the floor winning the Big Ten.
The structural enhancements to the facilities used by the students will continue too. Glass vaguely alluded yesterday to a project that will enhance Assembly Hall, and while there are those who see Assembly Hall as a boondoggle of a regime 45 years ago that gave Indiana a multipurpose facility when a basketball arena was needed, there is something very unique that is almost irreplaceable. There is no arena similar to it – for good reason – but that has made it intrinsically part of the fabric of Indiana University.
Glass is smart enough to know that. He’s smart enough to be right with virtually every decision, and energetic enough to create buy-in from everyone within the department. That buy-in creates excellence.
It’s not quite all roses for IU football and basketball as the expectations for the basketball team were not met last year, and the football team’s evolution toward being a legit competitor in the Big Ten is a work in progress, but compared to where IU was five years ago when Glass reported for work, there is plenty of evidence Glass has everything headed in the right direction.
The only baffling aspect of Glass as an AD is that the same organization that hired Glass also hired Rick Greenspan. Either they got real smart real fast, or they got lucky as they picked names from a hat. Either way the athletes and fans at IU win.