Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the forced resignation of Athletic Director Tom Goss. At the time the dismissal looked more like the workings of a conniving puppetmaster-president. But over these 12 months it”s been proven that the wisdom of Lee Bollinger does extend to the Athletic Department.
As time passes, information continues to surface about Goss” inadequacies on the job most notably, his mismanagement of the Nike negotiations and his grasp of the needs of Michigan”s varsity sports roster.
Bargaining on the strength of two national championships in 1997, Goss pressed for what was described as “Tiger Woods money” from Nike when the two sides convened to negotiate a contract extension at the end of 1999. Nike balked, Goss refused to back down, and relations became frozen.
Nike wasn”t offering petty cash. Goss could have accepted a six-year, $24-million deal but instead demanded more gold.
Knowing Michigan”s current contract expired at the conclusion of the 1999-2000 sports season, Nike called Goss” bluff. Goss had a choice: Cave in and sign, or watch Michigan athletes compete naked in 2000-01.
Goss split the difference. His mismanagement led to Bill Martin, his successor, ending the partnership with Nike and forging a retail arrangement, where the University would pay $760,000 for one year”s worth of uniforms and clothing to outfit its varsity sports teams. Michigan did not receive any sum of money for its association with Nike because, officially, there wasn”t any.
A shortfall in alumni donations and the default of a radio advertising contract led to a projected $3-million budget deficit for 1999-2000. After the books were closed on the fiscal year, that amount was reduced to $1.45 million.
How could Goss have recouped $1.45 million? By signing the deal that was offered to him, which would have included an approximately $1.2-million yearly payment to the University. Such a deal would have eliminated the need for the $760,000 outlay that Goss eventually authorized.
Add the $1.2 million payment to the $760,000 savings from the one-time purchase: Nearly $2 million would have been created had Goss signed the extension. Granted, these cash receipts might have taken place in different fiscal years. But that”s merely an accounting technicality.
The bottom line is this: Goss could have bailed out the budget by signing the Nike deal. The reason he hedged was not because of labor-rights issues. It was because of greed.
Goss wanted “Tiger Woods money.” When he didn”t get it, he salvaged his bargaining pride instead at the expense of the Athletic Department.
No revenue, no show: Non-revenue sports atrophied during Goss” tenure. Rarely, if ever, did Goss come calling to the non-revenues, seeking their opinions. On matters relating to campus” smaller teams, Goss ruled from behind his desk.
This became a significant problem when discipline was involved. Parents of seven players on one non-revenue team complained about the coach”s disorganization and lack of leadership. Goss interviewed all involved parties and placed the coach, who has since left the University, on one year”s probation.
A person familiar with the situation, believing the allegations to be unfounded, wished Goss would have investigated some of the claims for himself. This person said Goss “never came to one” event involving that sport during his 29-month tenure as Athletic Director, nor did he stay up to date with the program.
At the time, the University had 23 varsity sports and Goss reportedly hadn”t been to one of the aforementioned team”s events in nearly three years. The state of Michigan has 83 counties and Governor John Engler makes at least one appearance in each annually.
Before Martin became the permanent Athletic Director this past August, men”s cross country coach Ron Warhurst asked Martin how long it would take to “clean things up.”
Martin said 18 months. Based on that estimate, a year of Exxon-Valdez cleanup remains for Martin before the Athletic Department can begin making real progress.
A year after his departure, the Goss Smog still lingers.
Chris Duprey can be reached at email@example.com.