A sad goodbye to NCAA's Greg Shaheen?
The worst thing you can say about an NCAA innovator is that he didn't return emails promptly? Really?
Let's hope the NCAA’s dark ages didn't return a bit on Tuesday.
Those dark ages would be the time when information wasn’t shared, results weren’t explained and things were just done because that’s the way the NCAA mandated.
Greg Shaheen changed a lot of that.
The association announced Tuesday that Mark Lewis had taken Shaheen's position as the executive vice president of championships and alliances.
I know, I don’t know quite know what that corporate titlespeak means either. I just know that when Shaheen had the position, things around the NCAA were a lot brighter, smarter, forward-thinking.
Quick primer: Shaheen is the 44-year-old wonder who was the day-to-day face of the NCAA tournament. Under his watch, the media was invited to a mock bracket experience that helped not only us but the public understand a previously secretive process. It was Shaheen’s idea to put the Final Four in a football configuration the last four years.
You may be a critic of the sight lines when 75,000 people watch a basketball game, but you don’t have many supporters. The games were sold out. The Final Four has never been more popular, which is to say it has reached the Super Bowl level. He helped negotiate the current $11 billion tournament contract with CBS and Turner, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the NCAA’s revenue.
Shaheen is a guy you’d want to have over for a barbecue because he was fun to be around. He was self-deprecating, humorous, intelligent. Forget what he does for the media, coaches love him. Tom Izzo told the New York Times last month that “it blows me away” that Shaheen might not be back after more than a decade of service.
It's not a certainty that Shaheen is gone. The last paragraph of Tuesday's release says that NCAA president Mark Emmert will discuss Shaheen's role with the association "moving forward."
But history tells us no matter what the result, that NCAA apparently likes things corporate, real corporate. It has been said that Shaheen didn’t return emails in a prompt manner, that he didn’t delegate enough. If those are fireable offenses then give a lot of us pink slips. Shaheen also was a tireless worker, putting in 20-hour days.
The opposite of that is slacker who doesn’t care.
The official NCAA assertion is that if Shaheen leaves, he isn't being run off. I just know that he shouldn't be allowed to leave. He reached out to people. He was – wait for it – friendly, a word not always attached to the NCAA. I just know that during his time, the NCAA became a more accessible place. It was more forthcoming with information. A not-for-profit monolith that sometimes operated in the shadows became more open. I credit Shaheen. The NCAA may disagree, I don’t care.
Never mind that restructuring left him with an interim tag on his job for Lewis was named. Shaheen could have stepped down but he didn’t. That’s not his way. There was work to be done. His professional reputation grew even in trying times.
Let's hope the NCAA didn't lose the face of the tournament who had become more than that: Greg Shaheen became the outgoing, innovative, positive symbol of the modern NCAA.
Let’s hope the dark ages truly haven’t returned.
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