All NACDA Members
Opening Remarks and Keynote Address
(Monday, June 16, 8:30 - 9:15 a.m. )
Good morning. I'm Barbara Hedges, director of athletics at the University of Washington and president of NACDA. If I could get you to sit down, we will start our program. It is my pleasure to open NACDA's 32nd Annual Convention. Every year, the role that NACDA plays in the field of intercollegiate athletics grows. This is evidenced by the number of athletics administrators who attend the annual Conventions, workshops, forums and the Management Institute, and by the number of affiliate groups that hold their meetings in conjunction with this Convention. This has been a record year for NACDA. More than 1,500 administrators have registered for the Convention.
This year, following the Convention, we will host the Sixth Annual NACMA Workshop and Fourth Annual NAADD Workshop. As many of you know, the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators and the National Association of Athletic Development Directors are administered by NACDA. If you are responsible for marketing or development for athletics on your own campus, you may want to look into becoming a member of NACMA or NAADD.
Additionally, this is the second year the NACDA Foundation has sponsored the Workshop on Athletic Business Management. It was held on Sunday and we had more than 120 business managers registered. We are very pleased with the program we've put together and look to expand upon this Workshop next year. The agenda is listed in the Convention program.
You may want to take this information back to your primary financial associate and encourage them to attend this Workshop next year. As in the past, many auxiliary groups will be holding meetings with us this year. A complete list is available in the Convention program. We would like to welcome these groups and to encourage you to meet with us in the future.
We have an exceptional lineup of speakers for the Convention this year. Our theme is leadership and we have filled the program with speakers to address this very popular topic. The program includes informative sessions for athletics administrators at every level. In addition to the general sessions, we have breakout sessions and round table sessions with a variety of topic to accommodate the needs of every administrator.
Also, we are pleased to have an outstanding group of exhibitors with us once again this year. They offer the finest goods and services that are right for any budget and they are here to serve you. Please visit and spend some quality time with them. They are located in the Events Center. As an added bonus this year, the evening receptions tonight and tomorrow night will be held in the Events Center giving us more time to visit with our exhibitors.
The drawing for the grand prize will be held on Tuesday during the evening reception. It consists of a round trip airfare for two to London, England and three nights hotel accommodations compliments of International Sports, Inc., located at booth 223 and represented by Deborah Dunston.
I also would like to thank our sponsors. It is through their generosity that we are able to have such a fine social program. Please be sure to let them know how much we appreciate their support. I would also like to offer my thanks to first vice president, Vince Dooley. He gets this job next year; second vice president, Fred Gruninger; third vice president, Jim Livengood; secretary, Art Eason and the entire Executive Committee and the NACDA office staff for planning this year's first-rate Convention program. I'm sure you will be pleased with the program we are offering this year and I would just like to add that it has been an honor to serve as your president. I also would like to give you a brief reminder that tickets will be collected at both luncheons, so please have them ready.
At this time, I would like to bring up to the podium a member of the Executive Committee, Chuck Bell, the athletics director at Utah State University, to introduce our Keynote Speaker. Chuck.
Barbara, I want to thank you and Mike Cleary. It's been a pleasure working with you this year and you have done an outstanding job. It's my pleasure to introduce our Keynote Speaker, Merlin Olsen. Merlin is a unique and multi-talented individual. He is a family man, an athlete, an actor, broadcaster and businessman. His career has been marked by the unusual breadth of his endeavors and the quality and excellence of his performance.
One of the most decorated athletes of his time, Merlin has been elected to the Football Hall of Fame in high school, the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was also named to the College Football Team of the Century and the NFL's All-Time Team. He was a gifted student and this is the area that Merlin takes most pride in. He graduated from Utah State University with honors, Phi Kappa Phi, with a degree in finance and later, a master's degree in economics. As an actor, Merlin is best known for his work with Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie and starring roles in Father Murphy and Aaron's Way.
Combining his outstanding football knowledge with an articulate presentation, Merlin was a top television analyst for both NBC and CBS handling broadcasting duties on five Super Bowls during his 15-year tenure. Merlin has been, and still is, a national spokesman for FTD. He's held that role since 1983. In 1996, he signed on as the spokesperson for the world's largest seed company, and is the television personality for Chevrolet dealers in the Rocky Mountain area.
A highly sought after motivational speaker, Merlin has also utilized his talents in countless charitable appearances. His favorite fund raising project is the Children's Miracle Network. In that organization, Merlin has helped raise over $1 billion. If you ask Merlin his most important responsibility, he would say that it is his role as Susan's husband, as a father to his daughters, Kelly and Jill and to their son, Nathan. The Olsens make their home in Park City, Utah, the site of the 2002 Olympics.
Let me give you a quick rundown of his athletic accomplishments -- high school All-American, first round pick of the L.A. Rams and the Denver Broncos, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Consensus All-Pro from 1965 to 1969, the NFL Team of the Decade in the 60's and the NFL Team of the Decade in the 70's, the NFL and the AFL 25-year team and Sports Illustrated all-time NFL Team. He was captain of the Rams from 1970 to 1976 and was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1974. He has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was the Walter Camp Man of the Year. He's been the Grand Marshall for the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Indy 500 and was named Distinguished Alumni at Utah State University. He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary, All NFL Team. He was Utah State University's first Hall of Fame inductee and Utah's Athlete of the Century.
But, the area that Merlin is most proud of and wants to speak with you regularly if you're in a casual conversation, is not his athletic accomplishments. He received the Outstanding Business Student Award at Utah State in 1959, 1960 and 1961. He is a three-time Academic All-American. He was the NCAA Scholar-Athlete and scholarship winner. He was the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award winner. He was the inaugural class of GTE Academic All-American Hall of Fame and served with Barbara on the NCAA Honors Committee.
Still a great athlete, Merlin skis regularly out of his Deer Valley home. What is Merlin Olsen really like? When you talk about a celebrity, he is truly "Father Murphy." What you see and what you hear from this very gentle and familiar voice is what you get. Merlin Olsen is truly one of the finest human beings I've ever met. Merlin, we thank you for donating your time. I would like to point out one last record which epitomizes our speaker. Merlin was selected to the Pro-Bowl 14 years. The very next closest was 11. That's a record that may never be broken. Ladies and gentlemen, Merlin Olsen.
Thank you. You now know as much about me as my wife does. Thank you for that fine introduction Chuck. Thank you for that nice welcome. I'm delighted to be here and to have a chance to say hello to some friends. Many of you that I don't know personally, I certainly know by reputation. I applaud the important work you are doing with our young athletes all across this country.
It's hard for me to believe it was almost 40 years ago that I entered Utah State. As I was preparing to come down here, I was thinking back to those days and remembering my athletic director, a fine man by the name of Hyrum Hensaker. I had met Hy before I got to Utah State. I was about 13 years old and had gone on a hike in the wilderness. He had donated his time to lead that hike. Scouts from a lot of different areas arrived. I found out very quickly that this was a man who didn't walk as fast as we did, but didn't appreciate it when we got ahead of him, or when we decided to take our own short cuts. He let us know about that in a hurry. I also found out he had a very human side. I was walking down one of the streams as we were camped one evening and found him working his fly rod in that stream. I was fascinated by the rhythm of it. I had never seen anybody who was as good with a fly rod. He noticed me sitting there and got me to come over and knew that I was intrigued by this. He pretty quickly had me casting with this fly rod and didn't even yell at me when I hooked a fly into one of the high branches in the trees behind me. Fortunately, I found out early on that athletic directors are real people.
It was something that I was able to call on as I arrived at Utah State in the fall of 1958, at a time when Utah State was having some real struggles. In those days, freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity. I was playing on the freshmen team. It was a disastrous season for the varsity. At the end of that football season, the coach was fired and a very young, bright-eyed assistant out of the University of California named John Ralston was hired by Hy Hensaker to come and coach that team. The rest of that turnaround is part of Coach Ralston's history. What he did for our football program and the opportunities he helped to provide for me is certainly something I will never forget. It was important to remember that it was Hy Hensaker who hired John Ralston and brought him to Utah State.
It's important, too, that we realize, and I certainly do, how much things have changed since I arrived at Utah State. I was thinking the other day, how would Hy Hensaker have dealt with, if we could have brought him in his prime and put him in Chuck Bell's shoes at Utah State and let him deal with the realities of an AD's job today? I certainly wonder how he would keep up the huge number of dollars that each of you must generate to keep your programs going week in and week out and year in and year out. I wonder if he would lay awake at night worrying about the unfunded mandates of Title IX. Certainly, I'm sure that he could have used a page out of George Halas' money making book. Halas, of course, for many years a great coach and the owner of the Chicago Bears.
I had a first opportunity to meet him as I went with the Rams to Chicago in the 1962 season. The Bears were playing, at that time, at Wrigley Field, a baseball field, and not a very big football stadium. To generate more dollars, George Halas had sold more seats than there were in Wrigley Field. I can see you like this already. To solve his seating problem, he had gone down right behind the benches and along the sideline and placed two rows of folding chairs. This was fine except it did bring these people in direct contact with the players. Seated directly behind me was the most obnoxious fan I ever encountered in all of my years. A man with a voice that would go through brick walls. He was on us from the time the game started. I kept saying to myself, Merlin, just ignore him. I thought I was doing so well until the middle of the third quarter when our offense was on the field. My best friend on the team and a rookie with me that year was Roman Gabriel. The Bears sacked him and stacked up on top of him, not only knocked him unconscious but had broken his nose and he wasn't moving. We were very concerned. This little gnome behind me erupted in glee. He screamed at the top of his lungs, "Well you got that one. Now, get the rest of them."
Something inside of me snapped. I reached back and grabbed him by the jacket. I jerked him up at arms length. I'm not sure what I had planned to do with him, but I think he did the only thing at that moment that could have stopped me. He threw out his arms and said, "I'm an attorney. I'm an attorney." I put him down.
I know attorneys are important to you today. In some ways, it's a shame that they are such an important part of what you must do today. I think Hy Hensaker would have felt the same way. Not only do you need to be legally correct, but you must also be politically correct. I wondered how Hy would have dealt with all of the reshuffling of the alignments and of the bowl alliance. I know he would have been enraged at the encroachment of the unscrupulous agents onto the campus working their hooks into our young people and corrupting them and, very often, poisoning programs at the same time.
Perhaps Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach at Green Bay had the right idea. In his negotiations with his players, typically, he would call them in, hand them a contract and say, "This is your contract for next year." He would then hand them a pen and told them to sign the contract. Most of the players did exactly that. After a number of years, before the 1964 season, Jim Ringo, who was the All-Pro center for the Green Bay Packers and had made the Pro Bowl so many times, decided that he needed a little help to negotiate his contract. He brought with him an agent. He walked into Coach Lombardi's office and introduced him to his agent. Lombardi said, "Excuse me, Jim, I need to make a phone call." He left and was gone only a few minutes. He came back and said, "Jim, you're in the wrong office. You and your agent are in the wrong office." Jim was perplexed by that and asked him what he meant. Coach Lombardi said, "You've just been traded to Philadelphia." The message was very clear and very powerful. I'm not so sure that the coaches of today could deal with the agents that way, but it's a shame that we can't because, in my estimation, they have done more damage to sports than just about any other element that's been introduced.
I'm saddened too. I'm sure that Hy Hensaker would have been amazed at the changes that have taken place in the media and the press. The constant urge for ratings and for sales of papers has cost our media and press to become very vicious in the way they go after athletes and coaches and ADs and programs, often without regard to the veracity of their sources or the motive of their sources.
I'm sure that one of the things Hy Hensaker would have recognized and understood was the unrelenting pressure to win. Something else that would have been a very easy thing for him to do would be to pick up the new language of the ADs. Words like Zantac and Aleve are words he could have handled very carefully.
It's easy to get caught up today in the negatives of what's happening around us because so many of the stories that are reported are the sad and tragic stories. For that reason, I really enjoyed having a chance to serve on the NCAA Honors Committee. Currently, it is chaired by your president, Barbara Hedges. I had a chance to meet some of the best and the brightest of the young people that you have on your campuses to enjoy, the incredible accomplishments that they have put together and to read the resumes of many of those I didn't get to meet. To know that there are so many fine young people out there who are, in fact, living their dreams.
I'm one who has a powerful belief in dreams. I really think they're important in our lives. I will tell you a quick story about a young eight year old boy whose mother put her arm around him, sat him down on the couch and asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. I don't think she expected a serious answer, but he answered very quickly, "I want to be big and I want to be an athlete." The mother almost had tears in her eyes because she had to explain to this guy that being big was not something that you chose to do. She said, "You have to realize that this is something that comes down to you through your grandparents and your parents. Your two grandmothers are 4' 11" and 5' 1".Your grandfathers are both 5' 7". Your father is 5' 10 1/2". You can't expect to be big. But, now if you want to be an athlete, that's something you could work at." As it turned out, it was much easier for this young man to grow than to be an athlete because he was an absolute klutz. He simply could not get his feet and hands working together at the same time. Although he went out for every team that he possibly could go out for, he was always among the first cut, usually discouraged from coming back. In the ninth grade, the basketball coach finally called him in during tryouts and he knew what was coming. There were tears very close to the surface. The basketball coach put his arm around the young man and said, "Why do you keep doing this to yourself? Why do you keep coming out for all of these teams?" He said, "You know, our job here at the junior high school is to develop athletes for the high school and you're never going to be an athlete. Why don't you go work on the school play or the newspaper? Get involved somewhere else where your talent will not be wasted." I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been if I had listened to that ninth grade coach, if I had been willing to give up on my dreams.
So much of what I am today and what I do today and the way I do things has come about because of my experience in sports because of the lessons I learned in athletics and because of the tools I have been able to carry away with me. No question in my mind that one of the most important lessons I learned early on was about team work and being a part of a team, how important it is to be unselfish, to have the kind of proper respect for your teammates and that the backbone of good teams is, indeed, communication.
Important, too, to develop a special kind of concentration that you learn as an athlete. Being able to block out those things that are not important and focus all of your energies on getting the job done. That kind of concentration is often tested. I remember a Monday night game in Minnesota prior to the building of the Metro Dome with a freezing rain falling and wind blowing that went right to the bone. I was totally soaked and there was mud everywhere. I remember standing in a mud puddle up over my ankles and trying to keep my jaw from clattering hard enough to chip my teeth. Suddenly, a voice inside of me said, "Merlin, you're a college graduate. What the hell are you doing standing in a puddle in a freezing rain storm?" Then, the Minnesota Vikings broke their huddle and I went back to work. It is that kind of concentration that our young people can take away with them and use in their lives as they launch themselves into the real world.
Important, too, is to be able to tap the wonderful resources of mind and body. How many times athletes have to do that in difficult situations. How much we discover about ourselves during those opportunities. Important, too, is that we learn the value of flexibility, the importance of being able to understand and deal intelligently and aggressively with change. To understand that change is one of the few constants in our lives and that the changes that are most important are those that we can make within the framework of the game and not those that we talk about after the game is finished.
I carried away with me from my sporting experience a tremendous respect for leadership for good coaching. Perhaps, most of all, an understanding of this cycle of success. I don't think there's any single formula of success, but I do believe that there is an orderly progression. Learning how to go through this process of goal setting and of direction and commitment and being able to commit ourselves to those goals. Learning how to prepare ourselves properly for what we need to do and then of executing and getting things accomplished. Then, renew that cycle and turn it over and over again. We should be able to have the courage to accept the risk of failure and to add good doses of determination and perseverance.
Those are the things that our young athletes are going to be able to carry away with them and put to work in their lives. Certainly, sports provided more than that for me. It provided me with great opportunity. As one of nine children and growing up in a family where we knew that if we wanted to go to college, it was my responsibility, my athletic talents, and they finally did surface when I got to high school, allowed me to get a full scholarship to Utah State and to go on and get a very good education. My athletic experience at the collegiate level was a ticket then to have an opportunity to play professional football. Because I had a good education, I was also able to connect with major corporations even when I was playing professional ball and went to work for a number of them during those years.
It also helped me to use football as a stepping stone to broadcasting assignments after I left the game working for many of those years with Dick Enberg and the best seats in the house and enjoying watching others put their skills to work on the football field. Of course, a very unusual experience, to have a chance to go to work with the best coach that I ever worked for and perhaps the best team I ever played on and that was, strangely enough, not a football team, but the team that put together Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy. Michael Landon was that coach. What was unique about him, and I think it's so important to understand for those of you who have teams of your own, was that you didn't work for Michael Landon, you worked with Michael Landon. He had a unique ability to make every member of his team feel that they were important and that their job was important. I am very sorry that he is not with us today to bring us the kind of special programs that we could sit down and enjoy as families.
I know that one of the great challenges you have as athletic directors is that you must take responsibility for these young people who arrive on your campus, certainly many of them not as naive as I was when I arrived as a freshman in college. They arrive very coachable, very receptive and very trusting. For many of them, it could be with an academic advisor. I still remember that I had already gone over and registered and didn't know any better and went to meet with this academic advisor. He handed me a mimeographed sheet. I asked him what it was and he told me those are the classes you are going to take. I said, "Well, I've already registered." He looked at me with shock and said, "you've already registered?" I said, "Yes." He asked me, "What are you taking?" I showed him a list of my classes. He looked absolutely flabbergasted. He said, "Are you crazy? Some of these professors I don't even know. This is an upper division English class. You're in over your head already." I picked up my paper and walked out of that meeting. Since that time, I have wondered how different my collegiate experience academically would have been if I had been willing to accept that advisor's expectations of me instead of having my own.
Certainly, one of the challenges that we have is to make certain we are giving young people an opportunity to maximize their academic experience. Important, too, and this thought was brought home hard to me by several conversations with my son, Nathan, who just graduated from Stanford. I was encouraging him to get involved in other activities outside of his football and his sports-related activities. He asked, "Dad, where am I going to find the time?" He quickly related his schedule of meetings, weight lifting, practices, etc. Although I understood that part of that might be a son telling his father, I'll take care of it Dad. I'm also aware that in a recent study done by the NCAA of graduating athletes, one of their main complaints was the amount of time demanded by their sports and the fact that it restricted them to a very narrow chunk of existence at the collegiate level.
For many of you, certainly, that's a way of asking for the concentration of your athletes. But, I can't help but feel that by not allowing your young people to experience the full breadth of the collegiate experience and not encouraging them to do other things besides sports, perhaps you are creating some very real problems for yourselves. If there was more balance in your athletes, you might indeed have fewer problems to deal with at that level.
I know that one of the challenges that you have, and certainly it's an important challenge, is delivering messages to those young people helping them to prepare themselves for meeting the challenges of the real world. One of the most important of those messages is that success is not searching for you. You must do the searching. I know this is true because I find myself, so often, in competitive situations, relying on the kind of advice and help that I got from my coaches and from those who worked with me, not only at the collegiate level, but coming through professional football. I know that your young people will do the same thing. It's so important that you help them to learn to take charge of their lives.
When we really care about people, very often, we want to make it a little easier for them, but we must allow young and demand of young people that they take responsibility for their thoughts and actions. Many of the athletes that I worked with as a professional had been coddled so carefully from the time many of them were in junior high school. Whenever any of them got into trouble it was, don't worry, we'll take care of that. They never had to take responsibility for the problems they caused or mistakes they made. The end result, in many ways, was that they ended up being crippled by that.
The same is true of making decisions. Encourage your young people to make good decisions, but allow them to make their own decisions. Important, too, is to help them put this professional mania into perspective. So many of your young athletes arrive thinking they are going to be professional athletes. I don't suggest for a moment you step on those dreams because they're entitled to have those dreams. I would suggest you help them understand the reality and the odds of the numbers. Ask them what they will do if they don't make it. Help them to cultivate their alternatives and to prepare themselves to do other things as well.
I'm not sure I ever got a chance to thank Hy Hensaker properly for the kind of commitment he made to me and the interest he showed in me for the kind of help and assistance that he gave me when I was at Utah State. Since he's no longer here, I won't have the opportunity to do that. But, what I can do is to thank each of you for the care and concern you have about your athletes and for the kind of help and assistance you will give them as they prepare themselves for life.
I know that if Hy were here today and we'd been able to give him this experience that I talked about of walking in the shoes of the modern athletic director, he would say the one thing that has not changed is that the decisions that need to be made that ultimately lead to success or failure for the athletic programs that you are in charge of are on your shoulders. They are decisions that must be made under greater pressure and, certainly, with more scrutiny and with less patience than ever before. I am sure he would say there are more problems facing you than have ever faced you before. I would share with you, not only a thought of mine, and that is, there are always more solutions than problems. Our job is simply to find them and attach them in the right places. Also, in the words of George Allen, one of my coaches who loved to tell us as we faced serious problems that, "People without problems are dead." Certainly, by that definition, all of us here in this room are very much alive and well today.
One final thought and then I'll leave you. I know about the demands on your time and the commitments that you have and how difficult it is to manage all of what you must do. I would like to share with you a quick story. The moral of this story is simple. There are some things in our life that can't be put off and should not be put off. I was traveling, as many of you do so often, by air and racing from a meeting. I got to Kennedy Airport just in time to catch a flight. It was a rainy evening. I climbed onto the airplane, stuck my bag in the overhead and went to sit down in my seat. I noticed a young man sitting in a seat, turned his head away from me and looked out the window. I could see that his eyes were very red and he'd been crying. I said to myself, I wonder what I've got myself into here. I sat down. He didn't say a word. A half hour into the flight, we're leveled off and I decided that it was going to be five and one-half hours before we got to Los Angeles, I better talk to him.
I said to him, "I don't know what the problem is, but if it would help to talk, I'd be glad to listen." He nodded his head. A few minutes later, he said, "Maybe it would help me to talk." He recounted to me the story of his early life. He'd grown up in the Bronx in New York. He had a difficult relationship with his father as he got into his teenage years. At the age of 15, he had a violent argument with his father, left home and went as far away as he could. He went across the country and ended up in San Diego. Being resourceful and a hard working young man, he went to work and found a lovely young lady. He was about 23 years old when I met him. He developed his own business and they had two lovely children.
During all of that time, from the time he left until just before this, he'd never talked to his father, not once. Then, a call came one day from his sister. She said, "Your father is very ill and in the hospital. Come at once." He jumped on a plane, only to be met at the airport by his sister to say, "It's too late. Dad is gone." At that point, the young man broke down. It was very difficult for him. He turned back to me and said, "You know, Merlin, the hardest part of this is I never got to tell my father that I loved him."
I sat next to that young man feeling his pain and I think sometimes we only learn through pain. Realizing that it doesn't always have to be our pain. I ask myself a question. When was the last time that I told my dad I loved him? I made a commitment to myself that the next time I saw my dad, I was going to put my arms around him and tell him that. As I mentioned earlier, my father was not a very big man. He was very old world. When I saw him the next time, I went over and put my arms around him, he thought we were going to wrestle. I finally just gave him a big hug and I just said, "Dad, I want you to know that I love you." What was amazing to me was that, after that, it was my dad who came up to me and gave me a hug. It was just as important to him as it was to me.
I made another commitment on that flight. I'm going to make some special time and block out some time, take my brothers and my Dad and go fishing and do some special things together. We did just that over the next few years. It wasn't too many years after that I got one of those calls too. My Dad was gone. But, I never had to look back and say, "I never got a chance to tell my father that I loved him." Well, the message is very simple. Don't wait. When you get away from here, put your arms around the people that you care about. Let them know how you feel about them. Don't just do it once. Continue to do it, because you'll never feel better about yourself and those that you love will never feel better about you than when you are in that position of wrapping those arms around them. Thank you very much.
Merlin, on behalf of NACDA, we have just a small token of our appreciation. We cannot thank you enough for being here with us today. Thank you. What a great way to start off our program.