Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Drake's New Athletic Director Deserves Every Chance To Prove She Can Manage Her Own Major-College Program, and I Hope She's a Success

In the nearly 47 years I've spent in these parts, Sandy Hatfield Clubb is the sixth athletic director Drake has had.

After observing and listening to her today at historic Old Main on the campus, I hope she does well and I believe she deserves every chance to prove she can run the Bulldogs' department in a class way.

There's no reason she can't do as good a job, or better, than the other five Drake athletic directors I've observed since 1959.

What's more, I'm somewhat surprised Drake was able to attract the senior associate director of athletics and the senior women's administrator at Pac-10 Conference university Arizona State to be its 16th athletic director.

So I'd say she deserves all the support we in Greater Des Moines can give her as she leads a department that has fallen far behind Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa on the major-college athletic totem poll.

Jack McClelland was starting his second tour of duty at Drake when I came to town. He was the director at the start of the Maury John basketball coaching era -- and you sure couldn't knock him for that.

Then came Bob Karnes, who stayed until 1986. He let John [pictured on the right], the best coach ever to sit on a Drake bench in the school's 100 years of basketball, get away to Iowa State -- and that, my friends, was one of the biggest athletic mistakes the university let happen.

Curt Blake followed Karnes, and stayed until 1990. He's the guy who hired Tom Abatemarco. And Abatemarco was run off before his second basketball season was over. That's enough said about Blake.

Lynn King stayed as Drake's athletic director from 1990-2000, and he was a guy I liked. But his basketball coaches -- Rudy Washington and Kurt Kanaskie -- did him no favors.

Dave Blank left in April after six years as athletic director. He hired Tom Davis -- who had been the winningest coach at Iowa -- to run the Bulldogs' basketball program. Tom's son, Keno, has already been tapped as the next coach. Whether that's a wise decision remains to be seen.

So that brings me to Sandy Hatfield Clubb [top photo], 42, who has been in the athletic department at Arizona State, to run the Drake show.

Actually, Sandy -- the first woman to run a Division I men's and women's athletic department in this state -- doesn't officially move into her job until Aug. 1.

Any observing and interviewing I did at today's combination press conference/rally-around-Sandy-and-her-husband-Jeff-and-son-Tristan, 7-and-daughter-Skyelar, 4 was a sort of sneak preview.

"I can't wait to get started," she said.

In response to a reporter's comment about how Iowa and Iowa State dominate the Division I athletic scene in this state, Sandy said she welcomes the challenge the Hawkeyes and Cyclones provide.

"I love it," she said. "Coming from Arizona State, I know what Iowa and Iowa State are doing in athletics. Drake University is a special place for a student-athlete to be.

"I can't wait to take on Iowa and Iowa State....."

As part of her answer to my question about the challenges she faces at Drake, Sandy drew a laugh when she referred to her time in balmy Arizona, "I don't own a coat. So I'll be doing some shopping."

The lady faces some big challenges. So what else is new? Name an athletic director at any college or university in this country who doesn't face enormous challenges.

There are seats to be filled in basketball arenas and football stadiums. There is money -- oh, yes, lots of money -- to be raised. There are coaches to be kept happy. There are fans to be kept happy

At Drake, there is a horrible streak of 19 men's basketball seasons without a winning record.

The Davises are under contract to coach the team through 2011. The same with women's coach Amy Stephens.

Hatfield Clubb certainly wasn't critical of those moves -- calling them "great decisions" -- as she stood in front of the microphone today. After all, Drake president David Maxwell made the decisions, and he hired Sandy after her second visit to the campus.

Tom Davis has had three sub-.500 seasons, and Sandy was asked if she has any thoughts about how the program could move to among at least some of the best in the Missouri Valley Conference.

"First and foremost, Dr. Tom Davis is a phenomenal fit for Drake," she said. "He's a scholar and one of the top coaches in NCAA coaches. Building a program takes time. I love to win, and winning takes time.....One of the things we need to do is full up the stands."

Sandy lit up when I asked if she'd ever been to the Drake Relays.

"I'm dying to go to the Drake Relays!" she said. "Jeff [her husband] and I are very excited to see that beautiful stadium full, with all the activities happening that week."

Gene Smith, the former Iowa State athletic director who was one of Hatfield Clubb's bosses at Arizona State, said, "Sandy will be a great addition to the state of Iowa. Her values and commitment to students is unparalleled. She knows every aspect of athletic administgration and is well prepared to lead Drake athletics....."

Smith now is the athletic director at Ohio State.

Said Kevin White, athletic director at Notre Dame: "Sandy is clearly one of the bright, young superstars in athletics administration. She is smart, engaging, resourceful, courageous, tireless and, most importantly, she possesses unqualified integrity."

Although most others -- either those who are Drake fans or who aren't Drake fans -- are content with a wait-and-see attitude about Sandy, several people have already been negative about the university's hiring of her.

All are University of Iowa fans.

Barry Crist of West Des Des Moines said, "The demise of Drake continues. [Michael] Ferrari [a former Drake president] killed Drake when he dropped down from Division I to Division III football. The basketball coaching hires were bordering on lunacy. The worst was Tom Abatemarco [Chris Washburn's pen pal] over....BOB HUGGINS. Did they do any research at all? I guess it's safe to assume that Drake did not require a 200-word essay on why applicants would want the job as Abatemarco would have misspelled at least 25 of the words. Meanwhile, Huggy Bear is a lock for the No. 1 basketball recruiting class of 2007 at Kansas State.

"Then I believe it was Rudy Washington over Homer Drew.

"Could Huggy Bear have won at Drake in the '80s? Maury who?"

A man identified as "Keith in Keswick" said, "You can forget about Drake's basketball team ever going anywhere in the Mo Valley again. I hope the Drake Relays can survive this hire."

Said Al Schallau, an attorney and a Hawkeye fan who grew up in Iowa and now lives in California: "Ron, my response to Drake University's selection of its new athletic director is one that my late mother and father, and all of my brothers and sisters would never believe.

"I am going to stifle my opinions and keep quiet.

"Anything I would say would be politically incorrect to the 'nth' degree.

"Will I incur enormous wrath if I simply say that I would have hired someone else if the decision had been mine?"

Obviously, things are much different at Drake now than they were when someone like Ossie Solem [pictured on the upper left] was the university's athletic director from 1922-1932 and coached the Bulldogs in football from 1921-1931.

Indeed, Solem's teams played, and beat, such teams as Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State, Mississippi, UCLA and Oklahoma A&M. Solem's squads also played Notre Dame regularly.

The non-scholarship football teams coached by Rob Ash under the management of Hatfield Clubb won't need to worry about teeing it up with Oklahoma or Notre Dame on Johnny Bright Field in revamped Drake Stadium.

They just need to try to attract more than a handful of fans into the arena.


1894-95 W.W. Wharton
1897 William J. Monilaw
1907 Doc Pell
1910-1918 John L. Griffith
1919-1921 M.B. Banks
1922-1932 Ossie Solem
1931-1940 E.O. Williams
1940-1946 V. J. Green
1946-1951 J. Russell Cook
1951-1956 Jack McClelland
1957-1959 Dolph Stanley
1959-1968 Jack McClelland
1968-1986 Bob Karnes
1986-1990 Curt Blake
1990-2000 Lynn King
2000-2006 Dave Blank