What does it take to be a winner? The simple answer to this question is, to be a winner you must be willing to pay the price and be ready when opportunity comes your way. Sure there will be some strokes of luck (both good and bad) along the way, but winners have the vision to see the prize and the heart to fight to it.
The reason for such question pertains to the University as a whole, as fielding competitive programs requires support from everyone involved: from ball boys all the way up to the board of trustees. The direct question that I ask is whether or not Clemson is willing to do what it takes to be a winner, specifically in the areas of big athletics. Whether the university's goals are consistent with the goals of the athletic department, the individual coaches, and associated programs is extremely important when trying to figure out where we currently are and where we will be going in the near future.
Today we will begin to establish a baseline for assessment. Such assessment is obviously dynamic and changes with the environment around us. Hit the jump, read the structure, comment, and let's have a progressive conversation about this one:
I don't think there is much of a question where we at STS stand. Both myself and Dr. B are Clemson alumni and we both have been following the ebbs and flows of the university and its athletic programs for many years. Thus, you won't find too many other people who want Clemson to win and win big. This is how we can be so truthful and unapologetic when discussing our university. We want the best for the Tigers; this is why we demand that those involved with these programs receive praise and criticism as deserved. In the interest of creating criteria for assessment, I will hold off on my opinions until hearing your thoughts on who really causes success in athletic (and academic) areas. Please read my opinions and comment as you see fit. I will follow up by assessing where we are, how we got to the point that we are at, and where we could be going in the future. Again, I encourage you to express your feelings to assure that we open this conversation up and address this important issue from all perspectives.
In my opinion, there are two basic groups of people who dictate the direction of the university and its sports programs. Group one is the students/alumni/fans. This group is the people who provide the fuel for the programs through ticket sales and general program support. The students are the heart of the university. They are the machine that keeps this thing going both through academic and athletic endeavors. They provide the grass roots direction for the whole system and are, in reality, the group for which the university was created.
The alumni are closely tied to the university. They are former students whose reputation, to a certain extent. relies on the university and the success of current students. Alumni are typically tied to the university emotionally, sentimentally, and financially. Alumni are a vital component of the university because they are a link to the school's past as well as an important resource to the school through future successes and contributions to the university.
Fans are similar to alumni, as they often have an emotional tie to the university and often contribute large amounts of capital to the school. IMO, the biggest difference between alumni and fans is that alumni care more about the academic side of the university because they have had an academic experience here. Both care about athletics, and both are a big source of revenue and donations. Clemson has a fairly small alumni base (when compared to other schools out there who have much larger enrollment numbers) and must pay attention to fans as well as alumni for such a reason.
For our purposes, we will refer to this group as the "customer", or the group who is able to create demands and in turn pays for the services rendered. The other group involved has to be the suppliers. This group gets to take the demands, process these demands with current market conditions, then make predictions on what the future will hold. These are the folks that "officially" set the course for the institution and (again, IMO) consists of the upper university administration and Board of Trustees.
"Why such a small group?", you may ask. These people hold a tremendous amount of power. I omitted coaches, professors, program directors, and such because these folks (BOT/admin) have the direct power to hire and fire as they see fit. They can strengthen existing programs (academic and athletic), create new programs, or disband programs. These folks have to make the existing students/fans/alumni happy (at least to an extent) to maintain support at least to an extent. These folks are involved in a constant balancing act as they try to please the customer in the present while making investments and decisions that will pan out in the future.
So...what roles do these two groups play in our success (or lack there of) in the topic we all want to discuss, football? If enough people DEMAND football success, the BOT and administration will have to give this more focus. Along the same lines, if the BOT/admin deem football an extremely important part of the school as a whole, it will invest in the sport and do its best to assure that the program gets EVERYTHING it needs to be successful.
A fantastic example of this is the University of Alabama. Bamafan is serious. Bamafan demands one thing: the next championship. This group makes it clear that winning on Saturday should be the priority and that their administration MUST give their football program ALL of the resources necessary to win. While the Tide may have been up and down since the Bear left, this group was hell bent on finding the next championship. The Stallings years proved this program was dedicated to winning. The mercenary (Nick Saban) got results that showed the determination to win again and pony up lots of resources to do it. This is a group who gives its all to the football team and takes the sport very seriously and have banged away at it even through some very difficult times.
If people don't care about football, then there is no interest and little incentive for the powers that be to invest in creating a good product. These programs seem to flounder around and any success that they do achieve is quickly lost when a go-getter coach is lured away from the university for more money, fame, and a better job. I won't delve to far into this group because you hate to beat up on some of these guys especially when other aspects of their universities thrive AND they really don't care what you think of their football team in the first place.
There are areas all in between. These are the programs that want to have a good football team but will not place this success at the top of the ladder. It may be a by-product of poor management (or poor micromanagement), lack of resources, or lack of direction.
What other influences allow programs to move forwards or backwards? What are the resources that are needed to be successful? How much support is necessary, and is it a function of sheer numbers or is it a relavent percentage? Is it possible to build from square one?
While I realize that it is possible to build a program with (relatively) little support (see Miami in the '80's, especially some of the comments made to then Coach Jimmy Johnson from university brass) or relatively fewer total resources (Boise State has emerged from a mid-major to national power over the past few years), I would like to focus more on the internal support system and how the university works within itself in evaluating this item. So, what do you think? We will address our Tigers in a (near) future installment.