Winds Of Change Will Build In The New Year

It’s December 30th and cold north winds are slowly changing the northeast landscape into a tableau of white and grey. But the winds of change are arriving more quickly than many of us had expected at Lafayette. The first public manifestation of  change will be the arrival of Sherryta Freeman as the new athletic director. As many of us, who have been part of, or even led a changing leadership environment know, the first days and weeks will set a tone for the coming months and years of operation.


Academic bureaucracy is notorious for slow walking change, and by any historical  measure the pace of developments at Lafayette has recently occurred at warp speed. There is an internal slow  inertia in the academe, perhaps a result of its structure of faculty tenure, and slow board of trustee turnover. It may mean resistance to change of any sort. Lafayette was last to adopt athletic scholarships and resistant  in many areas aside from athletics. Even in the evolving marketplace of higher education teaching professors can be slow to adapt to new methods and tools. Tradition and fleeting success can be a defense against frozen policies, but at some point like the winter winds changing the landscape, sticking to “summer” strategies can endanger the institution.

Let’s review. One year ago a study was commissioned to examine the athletic department. The results of that study have yet to be released. but I would submit its findings are already reshaping the perspective of management. We completed a search and hired a new AD in record speed for our college. There are still 21 openings for new AD’s nationwide and we are out front with an excellent new hire.


But this is a new managerial era for our school, brought on by the hire of Alison Byerly. In her four years, we have set a new strategy, to grow the school, increase the endowment, and build a new science center among other initiatives. These are all bold efforts, which will no doubt have its small hiccups and larger risks. But even as we experience risks it  will be an opportunity to learn and grow. No doubt, tenured faculty, long time entrenched board members, and even alumni will have fear of  change. Management will have to be alert to the demands that change will bring and alter  personnel and processes to support a new operating environment. It will also require an openness so that people will have the opportunity to debate and understand….and yes even contribute ideas that might avoid crippling risk. It will sharpen skills of management, but require an openness not typical of the academe. It will expose those people who would not be supportive of new initiatives.

Athletics, more than any other activity of the school can offer a very visible look at changes in process and strategies. It can be an important and positive view for the outside world to see or it can be a dark negative. My sense of developments of the past year, is that it is a sign of the dusting off of intransigence, and realization that movement is necessary.  I am sure many of my older friends on the board, or faculty who have faithfully been at the school for many years are uncomfortable with this development. It will require an open mindedness that may not be possible for some. Some may even have to move on.


Even students will have to embrace those changes. They will have to put down their cell phones and turn off their computers locked into social media long enough to engage, support and yes, even politely debate those who have different interests and views than their own. In the end, Lafayette is still a community, perhaps slightly larger, more diverse than before, but a community that embraces the totality of itself, where learning occurs in every activity, be it on the field, in the classroom, or even on the stage. It would be nice to see faculty at games at Metzgar and coaches at plays and lectures!!

Ms. Freeman brings an opportunity to embrace and support that change. One of her initiatives at Penn was to encourage all athletic teams to support one another. She developed a system where teams earned points to attend others team’s games, for GPA, for charity work, and yes for their won/ loss record. Maybe that will be a first initiative for the new AD.

I expect in meetings with the new AD, that coaches will begin to see an accounting for what happens on the field, or on the court, not just  how close they are to their budget numbers. Many would like to see the AD report to the president, but if rumors are correct she will at least meet with the president once a week, a recognition of the importance of the enterprise to the institution.

Success breeds its own success and to our student athletes it’s an exciting time. Embrace it, support it, demand the change that is needed. There is no room for whining by coaches, athletes, parents, faculty, alumni or administrators. Open minds and open dialogue are more needed right now. Closed minds and resisting dialogue are not what is required at this point.

Go Pards!!!

Lafayette Hires A New AD From Penn………………. Welcome Sherryta Freeman


The search is over and the Freeman era begins for Lafayette’s new athletic director. Sherryta Freeman, Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Pennsylvania accepted an offer to become the next Athletic Director for the Leopards. She had Penn’s major high profile sports reporting to her, Football and Basketball, along with other duties. She arrived at Penn from city rival Temple after a stint at the Ivy League headquarters and a successful administrative and  athletic career at Dartmouth where she also earned her degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in African and African American Studies.

She earned two championship rings while a member of the Dartmouth basketball team and appeared in the NCAA tournament as a result. She was a star basketball player at Hillside High School in New Jersey scoring 2056 points, the most by any female player. She was the captain of the Dartmouth squad and her coaches looked to her to “spark the team defensively  and to get us to the other end,” she is quoted as saying

Lafayette is certainly looking forward to getting its athletic program to the other side of the Presidents Cup.  Being an athletic director was in her DNA. ” As an athletic director your goal is to make a strong and successful department. As a former athlete, you know how important it is to be part of something like that, ” she was quoted as saying 9 years ago.

I had the privilege to meet her and in two words I would describe my initial impression as charismatic and articulate. She has the ability to light up the room with her intelligence and enthusiasm.  She sees winning as critically important to giving our student athletes a good experience and intends on instilling a winning culture in a department that has had a paucity of wins for the last several years. I am sure we will see the desire to turn that around in her first press conference this January.

Field Hockey is ready for the new era

The Penn football coach has her as the “closer” for top recruits. Dr. M.Grace Calhoun  Penn’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation said , ” Lafayette has make an outstanding hire in choosing Sherryta Freeman  to lead its athletic department. Her dedication to serving our student athletes and coaches has made her extremely valuable to our Division one programs. I am confident that the experience she has gained as Penn Athletics senior administrator has prepared her to successfully lead Lafayette’s athletic department. She will be sorely missed at Penn but I am elated for her and Lafayette.”

I look forward to her arrival in February and I am looking forward to see what her first actions will be.

Welcome Sherryta and GO PARDS!!


New Leadership..New Attitude..New Goals

Audrey Sawers shadows a Harvard midfielder

As I write this article,  Lafayette College is in the midst of a search for a new athletic director. Bruce McCutcheon, the current AD is retiring and all indications are the new AD will be in place by the beginning of the new year. Dr. McCutcheon has seen an evolution in sports not only at Lafayette and the Patriot League, but in college sports programs in general. The effects of Title IX, needs for improved facilities, and the advent of merit aid in the Patriot League has had the effect of altering the landscape for Lafayette  and colleges similar to it.

By all measures, the facility issue has been gradually addressed. Lafayette has met those challenges with field, locker room and infrastructure improvements through the generous support of an active engaged alumni donor base. That improvement has been broad based, respecting every sport and it’s participants. Not only have we seen upgrades in the “major” sports, but virtually every sport has seen the impact of capital improvements over the last decade.


The last 20 years have seen major improvements in women’s sports facilities, not only because of the requirements of Title IX,  but because it was the right thing to do. I graduated in 1967,  women did not arrive until 1972, and progress in that area was slow and grudging. However, by the turn of the last decade, due to administrative attention, women’s sports have received equal attention.

The evolution of the school to merit athletic aid has not been as smooth. As the league adopted merit aid, Lafayette was not only slow, but the debate caused harm to the experience of student athletes during the era. One could not expect Lafayette student athletes to compete in a scholarship league without the ability to offer excellent student athletes the same opportunity as other schools in our peer group. We were the last to adopt athletic scholarships in the Patriot League.

The debate was bitter, and it still has its internal wounds on the psyche and culture of the school. However, even the most diehard opponents have come to see that our present student athletes represent the best of us. As a group, their GPA is higher, and as alumni they are stronger givers as they succeed in life. Student athletes are more in demand in the job market, and as a group they receive higher starting salaries than other students with the same GPA. By every measure, they are good citizens, and strong representatives of Lafayette to the outside world.


However, there is a missing piece. It cannot be said that we have a complete program without success on the field. Yes, we have had Patriot League Football Championships ( the great win over Lehigh in Yankee Stadium was a highlight even though it wasn’t a championship year), NCAA appearances in Men’s Basketball, two back to back League Championships, NCAA appearances and  national rankings by the Field Hockey Team, but in the last five years a winning record in any of our sports has been a rare occurrence.

Somehow, the mention of winning has not appeared in the goals and mission of the athletic department. Our student athletes are entitled to that goal, and consistent failure to reach those winning goals can impact everything that follows, fundraising, school spirit and yes, even recruitment for non athletes.

We have met challenges in the other successful elements of our sports enterprise. We must now fearlessly make winning a clear objective, not winning at any price, but by also upholding our standards and culture. There are those who may say we cannot accommodate winning and our character. To those, I would point to the schools with the most NCAA championships…Stanford and Princeton. Not that shabby I would submit.

We are in the right league that has the right values, and it is in our best  interest to find a way to succeed. This week we will be interviewing the final candidates for AD, I want to hear him/her  say FEARLESSLY, that winning will become part of the mission statement and there will be plan to get us there. The new AD should not do it to impress a boss, or make other college employees happy, but to support our student athletes in meeting their goals and give them an experience worthy of their effort and abilities.

The last interviews are this week. I look forward to the outcome. Outside of President this is the most important appointment the college can make!!