By Christopher Hammond
The Idaho State Board of Education has made a number of alumni happy when it announced it will not be renewing President Chuck Staben’s contract after the 2018-2019 school year.
The decision also leaves a daunting task for the SBOE and University of Idaho.
This next president may be the most important hire we have ever had to make. We stand at an interesting crossroads in the university’s athletic history. We are running a deficit, threats of teams being cut, and the football team dropping to the FCS. To add to all this, that school in Boise is also on the hunt for a new president as well.
The school is also investigating the athletic department’s handling and reporting of sexual assault allegations, which could mean the new president will have to either hire or work with a new athletic director.
In terms of the athletics focus, we need someone with a drawn out and detailed multi-year plan. What does that look like for football?
We have a unique opportunity in football. Despite many being upset with the FCS decision, we have to start living with the fact we are most likely stuck there for some seasons to come. It is well past midnight and prince charming isn’t coming. We have to start preparing for the next ball.
The move leaves us with a plethora of questions the new administration is going to have to lead us through.
- How are we going to position ourselves for the next round of conference realignment?
- How do we make sure we join the Big Sky conference elite with Flagships like Montana and Montana State?
- How can we win recruiting battles with established powers like Eastern Washington in our own backyard?
- How are we going to pack the dome for snoozefest games like the Cal Poly, UC Davis and Northern Colorados of the conference?
- Most importantly, is becoming the gem of FCS like North Dakota State a legitimate goal of this drop?
What about Petrino? He is now the highest paid coach in the Big Sky by a mile. Can we sustain that? Do we build or renovate new facilities?
Everyone says “winning solves everything.” But, what makes solving everything so difficult is the winning part. Teams don’t just start winning. It starts with leadership. If we want everything to be fixed, we need strong leadership which will lead to those wins and fixes.
The SBOE has an important task on their hands. We will most likely only get one shot at this. We need to start winning the conference and playoff games THIS YEAR. Then once we start winning we need to be prepared for the challengers that may try to follow our example and move down to compete for some hardware. If we get this wrong, I fear we may become what we are now at a lower level in a way which we may never recover.
So be informed, get involved and let your voice be heard. Let’s fight for our bright future. And who knows what will happen a decade from now if we do!
(Ed note: We realize the next President will be tasked with many more issues beyond athletics, most notably a healthy enrollment rate and making sure the University of Idaho remains the preeminent academic presence in the state of Idaho. This article focuses on the needs of the athletic department from the next president of the university, which is also very important).