Greene With Envy

by Rich on January 22, 2018

I don’t usually get very specific about certain programs in this column, especially my Alma Mater, Auburn University. I am aware that there is a hefty percentage of my readers who could not care less about my Auburn Tigers. So generally, I steer clear and speak in generalities.

But not today.

Because this week, Auburn University (“NOW UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT! CHECK OUT OUR NEW AND IMPROVED MENU!”) did something it hasn’t done in a long time. It did something Michael Corelone warned Fredo about. Almost. While it didn’t “take sides against the Family” per se, it did go outside the powerful and passionate Auburn family to hire its new athletic director, Allen Greene. Something it hasn’t done since WWII (with one exception when a dude appeared to get it by default from 1992 to 1994 when Auburn fired its head coach then realized that it had also just fired the AD and oops!). I’m thrilled, and I’ll try to explain why.

Mr. Greene hails from Seattle, WA. via Notre Dame, Ole Miss and, most recently, University of Buffalo. For most Tiger faithful, that resume might be a head scratcher. And I get it. But to me, it screams “CHANGE”. Let me be clear: I’m not saying that the men that have previously held this position did a poor job or were nefarious characters. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have met and spent time with 3 of the last 4 ADs at Auburn, and I admire and respect them all. They all left Auburn better than they found it, in my opinion. This isn’t about them. This is about Auburn.

By hiring a young (40 years old) black man who played baseball at Notre Dame (and in the minors for the Yankees farm system! Does he know Nuke LaLoosh??), Auburn is expanding and growing and acknowledging that we don’t exist in the ’40s anymore. Or the ’60s, or even the ’90s. But what I love most about the hiring of Allen Greene is not that he checks off some series of boxes for inclusion or diversity, but that he is, by all accounts, the best candidate for the job. Period.

Are there question marks about the hire? You bet. And although they are on a larger scale, these are the same question marks that accompany any new hire. They are the same questions every employer has had about me. My entire career has been stepping into jobs that I had either never attempted, or had not attempted on a big stage. But guess what? That’s how you get great employees. You look for talent and ability and passion and track record and roll the dice. You bet the house that someone that has been successful everywhere else at every other level, will be successful in your organization at your level. That’s just how it works. Auburn fans (this one included) like to think that who, what and where we are is special, and that anyone in their right mind would drop any other job in a heartbeat to come here. But let me ask you something. When’s the last time you took a lateral move, career-wise, when everything was going smooth where you were? You don’t.

Auburn’s new AD has challenges ahead. He will have critics to answer. Just like any other AD. But I’m excited about the future of Auburn and it’s athletics program. Sometimes it’s time for new ideas. That time is now for Auburn University.

Also, did you catch that part about him playing in the minors? I can’t wait to ask him about Crash Davis.

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