Nothing By Chance Blog

A True C.R.A.M. Session

College athletics has changed tremendously since I first started in it back 30 years ago as a teacher and coach.. For that matter it has changed dramatically over just the last ten years.  There is no longer an off season in which to recharge and reevaluate your program. Each day an athletic administrator will “cram” as many functions as possible in an attempt to stay ahead of the competition and develop their program to it’s fullest.

Modern developments such as the internet, 24 hour sports TV and talk radio have all contributed to the heightened interest level in your athletic program. Sometimes that enhanced attention is good; other times it is cause for concern. One thing for sure is that, as an administrator, it is always as though we are earnestly preparing for the next challenge. Some might compare this to the constant last minute preparation for final exams – a constant CRAM session.

As an administrator how can you benefit for the never ending CRAM session? Let’s take a closer look at what it means to “cram” in our world.


As an administrator in the education field we are teachers at the core. We are always trying to help our people overcome obstacles and reach their potential. This may be done a variety of ways, but it all starts with building relationships based on trust. To do this you must instill your vision in the minds of those around you. In order to do this you must be enthusiastic. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Or as the late Cavett Roberts summed it up, “you can’t heat an oven with snowballs.” To create this passionate environment you must communicate, communicate, communicate.

Make sure that you are constantly talking with your people about expectations and, more importantly, how you can help them be successful. Oh, and don’t just send out emails or text messages talk with them and make sure the message is being heard loud and clear. When I coached my favorite athletic directors were the ones who let me know exactly where I stood. Sometimes, I didn’t like the news, but I always appreciated knowing it.

Secondly, you need to be the chief encourager and understand that the strongest muscle in your body is your tongue. Truett Cathey (founder of Chick-Fil-a) was asked once, “how do you know if a man needs encouragement?” His reply was “if he is breathing.”

Also, when you are coaching your people you need to employ the “Foul Rule.” When I started playing basketball in the 5th grade my coach sat me down and explained this rule. He told me when an official calls a foul on you, you raise your hand, they will record it at the scorers table and then you put your hand down. If we apply this rule to all situations life would be much easier to navigate. If you as the leader makes a mistake (or one of your staff members), you admit the mistake (raise your hand), explain how you will correct it (record it) and then get back to work (put your hand down).


Jim Collins wrote in his book, “Good to Great,” that a key to any successful organizations is not only having the right people on the bus, but also having them in the right seat. Take the time to look around your institution and make sure that you have the best person in place, but also that they are in a position that they can excel at their responsibilities. This is the first step in any good recruitment plan. Once you determine your needs then you can start the recruiting process.

To recruit and hire the best person for the job you will need to have a daily plan devised and ready for implantation. Remember, recruiting is like shaving. If you don’t do it everyday, you will look like a bum. Recruiting/networking resources are all around you. Search firms are the most formal and can help you pinpoint the person you are looking for, but you may also need a way to reach potential candidates on a daily basis. The new social media structure (LinkedIn, KCOnlineCommunity, etc…) can provide ample support as well. These ideas are so vast that they are something for another newsletter.


Taking care of the overall academic landscape at your institution is a top priority, but making sure you have the most diligent athletic administrator in place to help your most visible students (athletes) succeed can daunting as well. Since the Knight Commission Report changed the athletic reporting structure on most campuses (Director of Athletics reports directly to the President) there has been an even bigger push by college Presidents to ensure that student-athletes are graduating.

Suddenly, one of the most talked about number on a college campus outside of winning percentages is the APR score. The APR score is the new way to monitor athletic success and it comes with it’s own set of rewards and penalties. Also, the media has picked up on these scores as well (we will discuss the media in the next section). They give an institution something to trumpet when they are high and a goal to reach when they fall below the cutoff.

Finding an athletic administrator who understands the difference between meeting the minimum 925 APR score and excelling beyond in the classroom is one who is worth his weight in gold. They have the responsibility of putting the right person in place and developing a successful academic culture. They are an extension of you.

Have your athletic administrators developed a culture of success in the classroom? Putting policies and procedures in place to perpetuate this success and produce positive ambassadors for your university is imperative. Though remember, rules without relationships lead to rebellion.

Therefore, make sure a solid foundation is laid first.


How do you manage success? How do you manage adversity? These may be total opposite situations, but in reality they are twins. One of the most important aspects of developing a solid relationship with the media is how you respond to these situations. Thus, how prepared is your athletic administrator to manage these daily occurrences. Managing success can be just as difficult as adversity. The administration at Butler and Gonzaga can explain how lack of preparedness can explain how important it is to ride the wave and turn it into something that endures.

The other aspect that is vital is building those relationships with the media (print, radio, tv, web) and nurturing them. Developing a proper framework from local on out so that disseminating news is fast, easy and positive. This is critical and will pay dividends in times of turmoil.

As I am sure you have noticed the key throughout is building relationships. Strong relationships with character driven people will sow dividends for years to come in the form of presenting a message of excellence.

Finally, I will leave you with one final thought, “administrations win championships.”

In the next newsletter we will discuss the 9 Characteristics of Successful Teams

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