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Georgetown Loses AD - Prior to Big East Breakup?

Three days after I opine that perhaps something is awfully fishy down Big East Way, Georgetown athletic director Bernard Muir suddenly fills the vacant AD position at Delaware:

Georgetown announced Monday that athletic director Bernard Muir was resigning to accept the same post at the University of Delaware.

Georgetown's search for Muir's replacement will begin immediately.

"I am grateful for the contributions that Bernard Muir has made to Georgetown," Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said in a statement. "Bernard has recruited outstanding new coaches and bolstered academic support and leadership development opportunities for our student athletes."

Sources close to the program said Muir's relationship with DeGioia became strained when he interviewed for openings at Duke and Northwestern in the past year.

Many Georgetown and Big East observers are scratching their heads. Why should the athletic director, who told the head football coach he would be behind him for the long haul as recently as the last recruiting cycle, abruptly change course and leave a Big East school that's a yearly threat to win the NCAA tournament?

No disrespect meant to Delaware, a perennial powerhouse FCS football conference and powerful mid-major basketball conference (CAA). But Georgetown is the biggest of the big time in basketball, and it's hard to see this as a completely lateral move.

The consensus seems to be that Delaware lucked out in a big way:

Delaware football coach K.C. Keeler said the fact Muir would leave a school such as Georgetown for Delaware is a tremendous compliment to UD.

"It speaks volumes," Keeler said. "He's not even an alum and he gets it. This is such a critical time in our future as an athletic program and that's one of the reasons Edgar decided to leave, because he knew he was not going to be able to finish out the mission.

"Obviously, what Pat Harker has done must have stuck pretty strongly with Bernard. You want to work for a president who understands the importance of athletics and understands that we're on the front porch of the university. And you also see the great potential we have ... There are a lot of decisions he's going to make that are going to imprint this university for 25, 30, 40, 50 years, and I think that's what he saw."

And yet others see quotes like this from the press conference:

"It's really about the opportunity," Muir said. "To be part of building something is really special, fundraising and going out and developing a sense of community so 10 years from now you can say you were a part of it. I thought that was exciting."

And can only see a potential FBS move for Delaware in the future:

Bernard Muir had heard all the code words when he was interviewing for the athletic director position at the University of Delaware.

He had heard how the program was described as "a sleeping giant," that there is a "vision for the future" and that the athletic program needs "to build upon the foundation already in place."

In many ways, that is all a euphemism for moving the football program up to [FBS].

"Our aspirations are pretty clear," Delaware president Patrick Harker said. "We want to be viewed as one of the very impactful public institutions in America. And athletics is a part of that. We want to attract the best in everything we do, including athletics."

That doesn't happen without [FBS] football, which drives every successful athletic program.

"I would love that, if that's what we decided to do," [UD Volleyball coach Bonnie] Kenny said. "This is an absolute sleeping giant. We want to build this brand nationally. Everyone is on the same page with that. But you can't just say, 'OK, football, there you go [to FBS].' There has to be a lot in place for that to happen.

"But how exciting would that be?"

Muir went out of his way in the interviews to be a "football guy" for sure, talking about how great it was to have 22,000 fans in the stands on Saturdays. But he's coming from a place where he saw 70,000 fans (and millions nationwide) watch the NCAA Final Four in the first week of April. Sure, it's an exciting opportunity at Delaware and all, but it obfuscates the fact that he's leaving the basketball penthouse for a modest brownstone across town. A good, well built brownstone, sure - but it still ain't the penthouse.

*******

Am I the only one who thinks it's odd that nowhere in Georgetown president Jack DeGioia's parting to Muir statement did he mention Hoya NCAA basketball success?

I am grateful for the contributions that Bernard Muir has made to Georgetown Athletics during his tenure as Director of Athletics. At Georgetown Bernard has recruited outstanding new coaches and bolstered academic support and leadership development opportunities for our student athletes. I appreciate Bernard's collegiality and work with many members of not only our campus community but also senior colleagues in the NCAA, Big East and Patriot League. I am proud that our 29 women's and men's athletics programs represented Georgetown with integrity and commitment during Bernard's tenure and wish him every success in his new role at the University of Delaware.

I like that Georgetown has been represented with integrity and commitment too with their Muir-led teams, but to not mention basketball at all? He-llo? 2007 Final Four? Muir had nothing to do with that?

Sure, this statement could have been the result of strained relations between DeGioia and Muir, which were allegedly due to his interviews with Duke and Northwestern earlier this year for their vacant AD positions. There have also been rumors of a falling out with John Thompson II (the famous former Hoya head basketball coach, as well as current TV and radio commentator and "influtential Georgetown superfan") that could also explain the slight. But is something else up?

What's real interesting to me is the peculiar timing of Muir's announced departure - about ten days before the spring Big East meetings in Florida.

I've reported my observations on some strange developements in this year's off-season - Fordham making an ultimatum regarding football scholarships, Hofstra's sudden public interest in exploring an opening in the Atlantic 10, and a brand-new Big East Commissioner having slew of headaches to resolve that would test any experienced commish - not least what he's going to do with eight restless football-playing members of a sixteen-team conference.

And Muir's departure only has me asking more questions along these lines.

Does now a lame-duck Georgetown fight hard to keep the Big East at sixteen far-flung teams that today only seems East "in theory"?

Do the Big East football-playing schools strongarm the green commissioner into booting out the Georgetowns and Villanovas?

Did Muir see a storm coming over Big East conference realignment - and got out of Georgetown as a result? (And quickly arrange to land at a school that could someday - remote as it may seem now - eventually be a member of a Big East football conference?)

Did he see a storm brewing about football scholarships in the Patriot League - and a possible disbanding of the Georgetown football program if scholarships are a reality? (Did that have anything to do with his decision - or was he just sick and tired of being unable to move the ball forward at Georgetown in football, with a half-completed on-campus football stadium for his whole tenure?)

And who will succeed Muir at Georgetown? (Might it be George Mason asssociate AD Adam Brick, who has navigated the waters quite well across the river without a football team?) And will he be a "football guy" - and will it matter, since evidently the "football guy" Muir from Notre Dame couldn't make Georgetown football into a Patriot League champion (or even finish a modest on-campus football stadium there)?

But that's not even my biggest question about the move. It's this - is this indeed a "lateral move" for the AD a Final Four basketball school to move to a school that now may have FBS aspirations - or just another piece of evidence pointing to a Big East breakup that will send shockwaves through the NCAA? I mean, what is all this smoke?

We'll know one way or another, I think, in a couple of weeks.

Comments

Doug-H said…
I've always thought if some of the MAC schools like Ball St and Miami could be FBS level football, why not Delaware???? I think they'd be able to recruit even better athletes... I've been to a couple of football games over the years at Georgetown when my daughter was there and it was a joke.... The last time, I didn't even bother to pay to go in.. I could watch for free from her dorm room...

I remember going in the old on campus fieldhouse during her graduation and Georgetown has had a long football history going back to the 19th century... While it would make economic sense to drop football, I think the alumni would still want a program because of the history...
Anonymous said…
when Wayne Hardin coached Temple, the Owls won 7 of the last 9 meetings with Delaware, including scores of 45-0, 31-8, 38-14.
Temple took them to the woodshed and then Hardin left.
I don't think Del. can play with top-level MAC teams like Ball State, Central Michigan and Temple, let alone the BE.
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