University News

Hiring freeze may hit athletics hard

By
Staff Writer

The Department of Athletics expects to lose about 30 coaches and staff this summer, but with a University-wide hiring freeze in place, it is unclear whether the department will be able to get approval to fill vacancies with new hires, Director of Athletics Michael Goldberger said.

If the tight hiring standards that have been in place since November last through the summer, the department may be without a number of assistant coaches next year — many of whom are expected to move to other schools, as routinely occurs.

While the freeze is in place, any proposed new hires must be submitted to a Vacancy Review Committee of top administrators. Departments must submit a form to their umbrella division within the University and explain why filling an empty post is absolutely essential. If the form is approved by the division, the review committee can do one of three things — refill the position, bring a temporary worker into the slot or eliminate the position altogether.

But in a time when budgets are pressed from all sides, athletic initiatives may suffer more than academic ones.

Academics are “going to be the absolute core priority,” said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services. “So first, you’ve got that.”

The hiring form states at the top, in bold and italicized font, “Only those positions deemed essential to support the highest priorities in the Plan for Academic Enrichment and mission-critical operations are likely to be approved.”

Goldberger said the departures of assistant coaches and others in athletics was not unusual in itself.

“The nature of coaching is that people try to move up,” he said. “A second assistant wants to be the first assistant, and the first assistant wants to be the head coach.”

“It’s just natural that people are going to be looking for those opportunities at other places,” he added.

The hiring pause may not directly affect all Brown teams — just those that lose coaches. Goldberger said that fact could create unfortunate discrepancies between athletes on different teams.

“I don’t think it’s fair to our student-athletes to say that you’re going to have one type of experience and another group of student-athletes will have a very different type based on the vagaries of who decides to pursue another job,” he said. “It’s got to be a more thoughtful approach.”

Nothing is certain yet. The athletics department does not yet know which coaches will leave, or exactly how many. The campus life division does not know how many positions from its 13 departments will be vacant.

When assistant men’s soccer coach Ken Murphy took a position at another school, the athletics department submitted the form requesting the ability to refill the position. The request is currently pending in the Vacancy Review Committee.

“If we’re told we can’t fill it, then we’re really going to be in trouble,” Goldberger said.

The review committee does not know which vacancies it will approve, or how many.

“This is not something that any of us have been through at Brown before,” said MaryLou McMillan ’85, senior director for projects and planning. “We just have to see what develops.”

“I can say I’m very optimistic about how we’re going to think about pure coaching positions,” said review committee member Karen Davis, vice president for human resources. “But I think it would do a disservice to the committee process if I said more than that.”

No head coaches have yet announced that they plan to leave Brown, Golberger said. But with 37 teams, “it’s sure it happen,” he added.

According to McMillan and Klawunn, the only sure thing is that not all positions will be filled, and that others will have to pick up the slack.

“It’s not going to be without pain,” Klawunn said.

The athletics department has already begun taking some steps toward reducing its budget. Goldberger decided to eliminate the costly All Sports Banquet — which hosted all varsity athletes — and host a less expensive Senior Celebration and Awards Banquet instead. The department also eliminated a position of assistant director for operations, who was responsible for managing events.

“Our job is to obviously take care of all of the inefficiencies that we should be doing better anyway,” Goldberger said. “Then the next would be, all right, what can we do that’s not going to hurt the core mission, but still keep what we’re doing.”

“Hopefully we don’t get beyond that,” he said.

According to Goldberger, the department has not had to fire any coaches or ask them to accept salary reductions. But he said he did not know what steps the department might have to take in the future.

The budget for next year is already in place, but expenses are constantly rising. According to Goldberger, the athletic department had over $100,000 of unanticipated fuel costs this year. Goldberger said the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, looks similar to this year’s, but the department will face more uncertainty in the fiscal years 2011 through 2014.

“It’s hard,” he said. “But we’re surviving.”