Bobby Valentine and Sacred Heart University…could they be a match? Maybe. As a native of Stamford, Connecticut (approximately 30 minutes south of the SHU campus), Bobby V. is very familiar with this private, catholic university, and has been on campus a handful of times to speak with students. I heard the other day he was on campus recently, but we didn’t know why. Now we know: he’s interested in becoming the next Athletic Director at Sacred Heart. Come on, did you really think I would let this story lie without putting in my two cents?
Don Cook, the incumbent AD at Sacred Heart, has been serving the University in that capacity for 20 years, and has done some wonderful things. During his time at SHU, he’s seen the school grow from being incredibly young and (mostly) commuter, into a Division-I institution that is now mostly residential. In November, Cook announced he would be retiring in July, ending his 50-year college athletics carer, which also includes time at the University of Hartford and Fairfield University. So, the institution has recently begun the nationwide search for a new leader of their 31-team Division-I athletic program, and there have been many qualified candidates mentioned, both internally and externally. The Connecticut Post spoke to Senior VP Jim Barquinero at a Sacred Heart Men’s Basketball game last month, and while he said the search is just beginning, someone without prior college athletics experience could be considered.
Why would a school be willing to consider someone with no prior experience in college athletics for such an important position? From being associated with Sacred Heart since I enrolled as a freshman in the Fall of 2005 and having signficant communication with the athletics department, a majority of the Senior Staff has been there at least 10 years, giving the department stability moving forward, even with Cook retiring. So, it could be beneficial for a school like SHU to bring in someone that hasn’t been in the game (no pun intended) to incorporate some fresh ideas, and possibly jumpstart the program in ways they haven’t seen before.
We all know what Bobby Valentine was able to accomplish as manager of the Mets in the late ’90s and early ’00s, but we’re also very aware of what happened in Boston during his one-year run as Red Sox manager. Although he didn’t always go about his business the right way in Beantown, I don’t think the blame for what happened at Fenway in 2012 should be solely put on his shoulders. So, the next question is: why in the world would Sacred Heart even consider someone like Bobby V. for this kind of position? Well, I can see it for a variety of reasons.
Like I said before, he hasn’t been directly involved in college athletics during his professional career, so he has the ability to bring a new point of view to an institution that could be looking for it. Plus, his name and popularity alone will draw attention to the school; just look at what this initial story has done. All of a sudden, we have reporters from the New York Post and Boston.com talking about Sacred Heart like it’s a school they talk about all the time (hint: they don’t). Look, I love Sacred Heart, it has a fantastic academic reputation, and I’m proud to say that I’m a graduate, but it’s a small, New England area school that is well-known regionally, but is virtually unknown nation-wide. Bringing on someone like this could help start to make Sacred Heart more of a household name, and possibly get noticed down the road like Monmouth and Quinnipiac did last month, as they are leaving the Northeast Conference for the MAAC in anticipation of the 2013-14 season. The Pioneers have won the NEC Commissioner’s Cup many more times than any of their competition, and I know they feel they’re worthy of a chance to move to a tougher conference.
When this news broke yesterday afternoon, I saw various types of reactions from friends on Facebook and Twitter, and most of it wasn’t great, which I understand. What happened last year with the Red Sox was far from successful, and he knows it’s unlikely MLB organizations will be calling him with regard to potential managerial positions in the future. However, despite what some people may say, I think he’s a strong leader and could very well be the right person to help put Sacred Heart on the map. No one is perfect, and he would probably be the first to say he didn’t do a great job last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s washed up. What better way to finish his career in sports than to help bring some notoriety to a small, local Division-I school? He has a strong personality, a passion for what he believes in, and I believe he does want to make a difference, which can translate very well in college athletics.
On the other hand, the institution needs to determine whether this added attention will help or hurt them in the long run. Could they be seriously considering Valentine, or did they walk him around campus to strategically leak this story to get 15 minutes of fame? We will find out the level of legitimate interest Sacred Heart has in Bobby V. as the search gets into advanced stages, which could take some time. So, buckle up and grab a Snickers, it’s gonna be a while. Either way, it’s nice to see people talking about my alma mater, because I think it’s a pretty cool place.