It’s my first day in the office since February. Did I miss anything?
Okay, so I wasn’t roaming the Sahara for the last nine weeks. I’ve been keeping up on the goings on Broad and Harrison, but it’s a different place than the one I left, figuratively speaking.
Athletic Director Norwood Teague is headed to Minnesota. Shaka Smart is still here, but Women’s Basketball Coach Beth Cunningham, who made the Rams relevant for the first time under her watch, has left to become the Associate Head Coach at her alma mater, Notre Dame. And then there are those pesky conference rumors. You guys have been busy.
In an attempt to get this blog back on the rails, I’ll take a moment to touch on the personnel moves. I can’t and won’t discuss conference rumors. I don’t know anything anyway. As far as I’m concerned, those are just rumors until proven otherwise.
Norwood Teague to Minnesota: It’s tough to see Norwood leave. Much has been accomplished since his arrival in 2006, especially in men’s and women’s basketball. His hire of under-the-radar assistant Shaka Smart has been a home run, the Siegel Center suite and club seat addition was a big hit and a $10 million practice facility is in the works.
As a rule – and especially at this level – athletic directors are expected to be fundraisers first, which Norwood Teague has always been at heart. The growth VCU’s donor base the last six years has been remarkable, and while there is still much work to be done in that area, the department is growing in the right direction. Some would argue that the success of men’s basketball has been the catalyst of the unprecedented donor growth at VCU, and I would agree. But anyone who has been in this department for a while knows that Teague’s organizational framework and vision has allowed VCU to take advantage of that success. There’s also a lot more legwork involved in fundraising than those on the outside understand.
As far as the future goes, the next athletic director will need to address a number of salient issues. Fundraising remains at the head of that list. VCU still trails many of its contemporaries in the amount of cash it raises. That will have to change in order for some of the department’s lofty goals to become a reality.
The next AD will also attempt to weigh other things such as (in no particular order), the continued success of men’s basketball, facilities (practice facility, baseball, tennis, field hockey, etc.) and conference affiliation.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed working with Norwood the last six years. He’s always had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish at VCU and how to get there. He’s down to earth and approachable. He’s welcomed the staff over to his house often and has been extremely supportive of much of my work, this crazy blog included. I don’t begrudge a guy for jumping at a Big 10 job and a (reported) 67 percent raise and you shouldn’t either.
Shaka Smart staying put: I hesitate to even address this, considering it’s a non-story story. Illinois asked, Smart said, “no thanks”. End of story. But Ram fans need to understand that there will always be rumors. It comes with success. Consider it a compliment to Smart and the health of the program. Someday, Smart may receive and offer he can’t refuse, but he’s here now and VCU has a great thing going. I can’t wait for the 2012-13 season.
Beth Cunningham to Notre Dame: If you made a list of the most important moments in VCU Women’s Basketball history, nearly all of them would have occurred during Beth Cunningham’s tenure. Her 167 victories are the most in school history by a wide margin. Prior to her arrival, VCU had reached the postseason a grand total of one time. She leaves the Rams on the heels of five consecutive postseason berths, including the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008-09. Three of her players, Quanitra Hollingsworth, Krystal Vaughn and Courtney Hurt have been drafted into the WNBA.
During her nine seasons as head coach, not to mention two as an assistant, Cunningham elevated women’s hoops at VCU to another level. The next coach will be asked to take the program even further. VCU is still without a CAA Championship and still lacks the NCAA success the men’s program has enjoyed. Cunningham lifted VCU out of the depths of mediocrity. The next person in charge will need to build on that foundation.