When new University of Tennessee at Chattanooga chancellor Steven Roger Angle was growing up in southern California, he didn't play organized sports.
Instead, he owned a horse.
"I had a job and took care of my horse," he said.
A show horse?
"No, just a horse, a pet," Angle said of the mare named Misty.
But just because he wasn't a prep sports king on the field, course or court doesn't mean he doesn't already possess an acute understanding of what's king on Southern college campuses.
"As I went through the process, I was talking to Joe [DiPietro, the UT president] one night on the phone and told him how exciting it was to have the provost position open," Angle said.
"He stopped me almost immediately and said, 'Yes, and the athletic director's job is open, too.' I quickly understood how important that opening is to a lot of people here."
Or as more than one former UTC chancellor has noted in the past, "Athletics is 10 percent of the budget but takes up 50 percent of my time."
Perhaps that's why Angle also wasted no time in declaring during Friday's news conference: "We need to get going on [the AD hire] now, and it will be an appointment that I hope will be made before July 1."
That's when Angle officially takes over.
Contrary to the win-the-news-conference mentality of some these days, you shouldn't judge any person just hired on his opening remarks. Especially a news conference played out before Angle's new faculty and staff and with his young children understandably preoccupied by their blue and gold balloons.
But if you assess him by his resume, you can't help but be impressed by a guy who wrote his doctoral dissertation on "Studies Toward the Total Synthesis of Strychnos Alkaloids."
And he obviously understands how to convince folks to put their money where their mouths are. At UC-Riverside he increased grant awards from $18 million to $65 million. At Wright State he increased research and program awards from $64 million to $100 million.
So what does this have to do with hiring an athletic director? Simply this: At a school that's biggest shortcoming is the ability to raise money, Angle not only figures to understand the need for improved fundraising but also should be able to land an AD with a similar ability and passion for that skill.
And once on board, that new AD should find a chancellor who'll help without hovering.
"[Angle] was very easy to work with," Wright State AD Bob Grant told this newspaper last week. "He was very supportive and very available. He was not meddling at all. [And] the star basketball player didn't get any more friendliness out of Steve than the reserve volleyball player. He gets it, and that's the best compliment I can give him."
Yet Angle also seems to be someone who'll keep athletics in proper perspective, given this quote from the news conference concerning his time at Wright State: "We wanted our coaches to have the opportunity to succeed, but we also wanted to make sure we were good stewards of the funds that went to athletics."
If there's a potential downside to this hiring, it may be that the more things improve, the shorter time Angle will be on board. UTC was the fourth time in four years he'd been on someone's short list for president or chancellor -- the other three being Cal-Poly, Montana State and Nevada-Reno -- so he's clearly ambitious.
Then again, becoming a finalist for three top jobs also means Angle is very good at what he does, which should serve UTC quite well for however long he's here.
If I could make a single suggestion to Chancellor Angle regarding the athletic director's post, I might ask him to consider strongly a two-headed hire, while returning interim AD Laura Herron to her former compliance post.
First, land an AD with strong fundraising skills, then heavily weight his contract with incentives for fundraising increases. Second, bring aboard a marketing director with similar incentive clauses. A 10 percent increase in attendance in football or men's basketball brings a $10,000 bonus. A 20 percent increase brings a $25,000 bonus.
We aren't the same town we were 10 or 20 years ago. Thanks to such companies at Volkswagen, it's a different demographic. Mocs games need to be treated more as entertainment, like a minor league baseball contest -- a cost-friendly, family-oriented event that's seen as a viable alternative to a movie or dinner out.
The right marketing person can do that, especially if the AD can find a way to turn around men's basketball.
In his resume, under "Administrative Philosophy," Angle wrote:
"Whatever success I've enjoyed is the result of the efforts of many talented people working toward a set of common goals."
A university is hopefully far more than an athletic department. But to avoid spending 50 percent of his valuable time on Mocs sports, Angle needs to make sure he and the search committee find a very talented person -- or two -- to take over that 10 percent of his budget as soon as possible.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...
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