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Thoughts On The AD Search, Purcell

May 7, 2010
As expected, Bobby Purcell—Executive Director of The Wolfpack Club—has officially thrown his name into the ring as a candidate for the N.C. State AD job. Purcell interviewed for the same position 10 years ago when Lee Fowler was hired.

I’m conflicted on where I stand with hiring Purcell away from the WPC.

On the one hand, Purcell possesses just about every quality you would want in an AD at State. First and foremost, he’s a HUGE State fan. Don’t let the UNC business degree fool you–he grew up a State, was one throughout college, and per his roommate at Chapel Hill, even had State posters up in his dorm room. It takes stones to hang a State poster in a dorm room in Chapel Hill, especially in the mid-to-late 70’s when State-Carolina was THE rivalry in the state. He spent time as an assistant football coach and recruiting coordinator with the Wolfpack during the early 80’s and landed Erik Kramer, one of the best quarterbacks in State’s history.

Secondly, he’s a professional. He manages a large scale budget with a great number of employees and many more volunteers across the state. He knows the value of operating a tight ship and keeping order throughout a large organization. He understands the value of consistent growth within an organization, as evidenced by the steady growth of the WPC membership to over 20,000 members.

Thirdly—and perhaps most key—he’s an effective closer on the fundraising circuit. In 2007, Purcell was named University Division Fundraiser of the Year by the National Association of Athletic Development Directors (NAADD). A read of the fantastic Wall Street Journal piece about his work with the WPC shows that he knows how (and feels quite comfortable) to say the right things to open the wallets of multimillionaires and billionaires to give large amounts year in and year out. An AD has to be able to sell the program to prospective hires, the media and the academic administration, and Bobby’s shown he can do all that.

And if Purcell is passed over a second time as a candidate for AD, could State still lose Purcell from the WPC? Would he become disillusioned with State’s leadership and take an AD position elsewhere out of disappointment? That doesn’t seem like something he would do based on his track record and testaments to his character, but speaking personally, if I were passed over twice for my dream job, I might find it hard to come back to work in the same position and wait another decade for that same opportunity to come around a third time. In a way, not promoting him from the WPC could be worse for WPC than promoting him away from his position.

But on the other hand, there are things about promoting Purcell to AD that concern me.

(Continues)

Primarily, I’d hate to lose his leadership within the WPC. State’s membership growth is due in large part to Purcell, and I fear losing him from that head position would jeopardize the tremendous things the WPC is poised to accomplish in the future. He’s quite possibly too valuable to move out of that seat.

Secondarily, his close association with so many of the movers and shakers within the existing power structure of Wolfpack Athletics may make it difficult and perhaps impossible for Purcell to completely restructure the organization in the way it needs to be. Selling naming rights to beautiful buildings likely (presumption on my part) means making promises of access and influence that will be tough to break when they need to be, and if what I’ve heard about some of our largest donors is true, they will be very, very unwilling to relinquish this kind of influence in future hiring/firing decisions. Just as knowing the right folks within the alumni base can be a blessing from a fundraising standpoint, it can also be a curse from a decision making one.

I’ve reconciled things to this: If—after an exhaustive AD search from a third-party firm—Bobby Purcell is determined to be the best possible candidate for the job, I will have ZERO problem with that whatsoever. In my mind, he’s certainly qualified. But I would be very, very disappointed if the university, Chancellor Woodson and the Board Of Trustees simply settles on Purcell because he represents the path of least resistance.

An associate AD from an Ohio State, Texas or Florida would bring new blood and no prior existing alliances to current donors, which may be exactly what the program needs to snap itself out of this funk it’s been in for the last 25 or so years. Fowler, however, was “new blood,” and we saw how well he shook up things…if anything, the status quo got WORSE under his watch than better. Bottom line, there are no guarantees.

For the overall good of the university, may the best man or woman win the position.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2010 3:26 pm

    I think Chuck Amato would be a good hire for the job….seriously

  2. May 7, 2010 3:42 pm

    Amato would be a horrible hire. Why would want to hire as an AD a person who had so much turnover on his staff when he was a coach?

  3. May 7, 2010 4:26 pm

    With respect to Amato as AD, a friend of mine had this to say (which echos my feelings, as well):"Chuck Amato's main problems as a football coach included:-The arrogance of thinking he knew everything-The related need to micromanage every decision by his subordinates-The related inability to retain competent staff for very long-A toxic relationship with the mediaAll those problems would not only be present for him as an AD, they'dbe magnified. The ideal AD is a delegator who is willing to hire goodpeople to coach and market the entire athletics program. Then thatperson (the AD) should be willing/able to go out and promote theschool and glad-hand people who can contribute in some way (donors,corporate sponsors, etc…).We have had NONE of those things for 10+ years. Our coaching has been weak at best, our marketing is just terrible, and our "leadership" had a terrible relationship with the fanbase. That's why we are where weare."/cosigned

  4. May 7, 2010 4:50 pm

    Amato would have to deal one on one with the same big money donors who ran him out of town… no way in hell that works.

  5. May 7, 2010 5:21 pm

    but all the athelets could sports some really cool sunglasses. so, they'd have that.

  6. May 7, 2010 5:21 pm

    and i have no idea how to spell athletes.

  7. May 7, 2010 5:38 pm

    "He’s quite possibly too valuable to move out of that seat."Having been categorized that way myself and seen others "locked in" by management because they are so good at what they currently do is a guaranteed way to lose talent entirely. If the man is ready to make a move, he's ready to make a move. When it comes to top performing loyal employees, people in management and administration lose sight of the fact their little operation isn't the only game in town.

  8. May 7, 2010 5:55 pm

    ^ Playing the Devil's Advocate, could the "Peter Principle" come into play and we promote Purcell into a position he's not capable of performing well, taking him out of a position he clearly excels at?Again, I think Purcell would do a great job as AD. I think the odds of him "failing" at it are slim. But I wonder if we could damage both positions by promoting him out of an area where he really does great things for State.I hear what you're saying, though, and explored that possibility in the piece above. He may get tired of getting passed over time and again and eventually bolt from N.C. State altogether.

  9. May 9, 2010 6:41 pm

    If Purcell is the manager he is reputed to be, he should have been training someone to take his position in the WPC. If so, Purcell's position should be pretty easy to fill from within without losing a step. And it could be that, if necessary, his position is easier to fill from outside than the AD position, although I'm certainly not lobbying for the AD to be an insider. If Purcell turns out to be the best AD candidate after a full, open and objective national search for an AD, I'm OK with it.

  10. May 10, 2010 11:49 am

    could Purcell stay at his current position if he's not promoted to AD? would that be humiliating to him? I hope that's not the case. If he's the right man for the AD job, give it to him, but i'd hate to lose him as WPC executive director if he's not.

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