Friday, February 15, 2008

Cut Hocutt some slack

Yesterday I sat down with Kirby Hocutt, who just recently resigned as Director of Athletics at Ohio University to take the same position at the University of Miami. The resounding thing I took away from the interview is that Hocutt deserves the benefit of the doubt.

A very affable guy, Hocutt spoke proudly of the accomplishments in his tenure at Ohio. The Bobcats won the Jacoby Trophy for the best all-around women's athletics program in the MAC, reached their first bowl game in 38 years, gained revenue from multiple corporate agreements and have reaped the benefits of fundraising success from alumni.

I asked Hocutt about the importance of reinvigorating the football and basketball programs. This led him to speak of the importance of leadership through coaching. He spoke highly of the entire football coaching staff and said of coach Sylvia Crawley, "You would not meet a finer person." I have to agree with Hocutt on the importance of having good coaching in college athletics. I think Ohio has some of the best coaches in the MAC not only with coaches Solich, O'Shea and Crawley in the big name sports but also with coaches Macmillan, Greenlee, Werner, and Calkins in some of the less recognized sports. A good coach is vital to the consistency and vision of a team, which is why it is so disheartening to see Geoff Carlston, one of the best in the nation leave. It must be a main priority of the next athletic director to find a suitable replacement for Carlston, who can pick up where he left off with our volleyball team.

The most interesting parts of the interview for me were finding out a little about the interview process and Hocutt's thoughts on his legacy at Ohio.

First, the hiring process with Miami. For those who want to villify Hocutt for leaving Ohio, he was not actively pursuing other jobs. He was contacted by a search firm in Cleveland and asked if he had interest in the University of Miami job. Obviously he did. I really don't think many people would fault Hocutt for taking a job at a major ACC program but, quite frankly, those who do are not really thinking.

On his legacy here at Ohio, Hocutt sounded remorseful about the discontinuation of four varsity sports. Although I was not at the University when the situation happened it was evident to me that cutting the sports was not something Hocutt wanted to do; it was something he had to do. He said he's not going to make the easy decisions but the right ones. Some may disagree with the decision. However, I respect that fact that Hocutt had the pride to say he will be linked to the cutting of the four sports. Yes, it was surely painful for the athletes who played on the teams that were cut. But to villify Hocutt for making what was obviously a difficult decision is not fair.

I asked Hocutt what he would miss most about Athens and he said the good people here. Not all will agree but I think Kirby Hocutt will be missed. It's very easy to look at the negatives but let's not forget about the positives. Ohio is a mid-major school in the MAC, where there can be a lot of parity. During Hocutt's time here, we've seen improvement in football and women's basketball and have won six MAC Championships. And if he had done such a poor job, would a top-tier program like Miami have hired him?

Was he perfect? No. But let's cut Hocutt some slack and not only look back at the scandals or negatives but also the good that he has done.

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