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Lafayette Athletic Director "Reassigned" - Why?

It's been an awfully busy week in the world of football.

College football media days rage on, including that of the Patriot League, which is less than a week away.

The NFL Lockout came to a sudden end, unleashing a frenzy of moves that are dizzying, like DE Jason Babin rejoining the Eagles and RB Reggie Bush going to where Saints running backs go to retire, the Miami Dolphins.

And the Patriot League released its 25th anniversary team on Monday, which has stimulated quite a bit of discussion on the fact that a Payton Award winner didn't make the team and the fact that not a single Georgetown player made the list either.

Midst the chaos came an announcement that you probably missed. It came from "that school in Easton", and it was no small deal.  It involved the reassignment of Lafayette athletic director Bruce McCutcheon to a "new leadership role" in the athletics department involving athletic fundraising.

It's a "reassignment" that could have much, much bigger ramifications in the Patriot League than many may realize. (more)

The news was broken with little fanfare on the Lafayette athletic site:

Bruce McCutcheon, Lafayette's director of athletics, announced today that he will take on a new leadership role in advancing the College's 23-sport NCAA Division I intercollegiate program. Following the upcoming academic year, McCutcheon will step away from his current post to become the College's director of athletic development, effective July 1, 2012.

"I am very proud of the progress of our athletics program over the last decade, particularly the far-reaching upgrades to our facilities and increases in the number and quality of the coaching staff and other personnel. I am also proud of the significant improvements in our student-athletes' academic performance and of our new leadership-development program for student-athletes, the Athletics Leadership Academy," McCutcheon said.

"Because the greatest single challenge now facing Lafayette athletics is financial strength, I am joining the College's development team as lead athletics fundraiser to focus on increasing that strength very significantly. I am excited about the opportunity and look forward to the challenge."

It's not every day that a ten year veteran steps down from a Division I athletics director position. The questions on my mind are: why step down? And why now?

McCutcheon presided over the most ambitious athletics facilities improvements in Lafayette history. When he started, Lafayette's Fisher Field was filled with bleachers that gave patrons splinters and a Kirby gymnasium that, while a nice place to watch a basketball game, had seen better days.

Bruce worked with deep-pocketed alumni and an administration that had openly mulled downgrading to Division III to create what I not-so-affectionately called the "Death Star", creating a state-of-the-art Kirby Sports Complex. Included was beautiful Bourger Field House, upgrades to Fisher Field to make it the most modern field in the Patriot League, and tons of weight-training and behind-the-scenes improvements to give Lafayette true 21st-century facilities.

Fordham had to make do with Eisenhour-era locker rooms and facilities for years; under McCutcheon's leadership, Lafayette soared from below-average to state-of-the-art for not only football players, but all athletes.

McCutcheon made that happen. Period. And he deserves credit.

So what happened? A quick report filed by the Morning Call didn't provide much insight:

"This new [position] will allow me to have a single focus, and that is to try to raise money for athletics," he said in a phone interview Monday. "The school's never had a dedicated major-gifts officer for athletics."

McCutcheon already has several goals in mind for when he assumes his new post, including securing money to improve Kirby Sports Center, home to the men's and women's basketball teams, and developing an endowment to fund the athletic department. While Lafayette's athletic facilities have undergone extensive expansion and renovation during his time as AD — he took over his current job Sept. 20, 2001 — the school's development office handled most of the fundraising for those projects.

Lafayette's student-athletes also have flourished in the classroom. In the NCAA's most recent report on the graduation-success rate for Division I schools (October 2010), Lafayette ranked No. 3 in the country at 97 percent.

"I'm just so proud of what our student-athletes over the years have been able to accomplish in terms of individual accolades and team accolades, and going on to be productive citizens," McCutcheon said. "If there's anything I'm most proud of, it's that."

And when you look at the timeline of McCutcheon's reassignment, it's even more mysterious, especially considering that just eleven days prior he was elected to the prestigious FCS Athletics Director Association Executive Committee:

McCutcheon, who has been Lafayette's director of athletics since 2001, is one of six athletic directors newly elected to a four-year term on the 16-member executive committee. He has previously served on three national committees: the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Football Committee, the NCAA Division I Football Issues Committee and the NCAA Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet.

It's not unheard of to reassign an athletics director prior to serving on a committee like this, but McCutcheon wasn't exactly seen as being on the "hot seat", either. If anything, it shows that Lafayette was ready to have a national voice on a multitude of matters involving athletic directors.

That's not the only issue of the timing that doesn't look quite right, either. If McCutcheon were indeed planning to ease into this role of fundraising, wouldn't it have been better to do so in June, not a week before Patriot League media day in football?

*****

One interesting name to note in the release is that of the presidential spokesman on the release announcing the reassignment:

"I am grateful to Bruce for his many contributions to our athletics program and to the College as a whole. He will bring experience and expertise that will serve him well in the important new role of lead fundraiser for athletics, and his exemplary integrity and dedication to the College's mission will continue to benefit Lafayette immensely," said James F. Krivoski, executive assistant to the president and administrative secretary to the board of trustees, in a message to the campus community.

To me, it's unusual that the president of Lafayette didn't make the statement in regards to McCutcheon's reassignment - it was Mr. Krivoski. I would have thought that more than ten years of service would mean a statement of thanks from the top person.

But Mr. Krivoski's position within Lafayette is an interesting one.

Since 1999 he's been at the head of the "student life" division of the college - which includes, strangely, collegiate athletics.

The division advances the mission of the College by shaping an environment in which students are supported and challenged to deepen their understanding of themselves, others, and the world. It includes the Department of Athletics, Counseling Services, Health Services, the Office of Intercultural Development, Judicial Affairs, the Landis Community Outreach Center, Recreation Services, the Office of Religious Life, the Office of Residence Life, the Office of Student Life Programs, and the Williams Center for the Arts.

In the quoted release, it mentioned that Mr. Krivoski would be moving from the "vice president of student affairs" and instead would become an "executive assistant" to the president of Lafayette, Daniel Weiss. (As a result of this move, he's also considered a "key executive" in the running of the college, accordng the Businessweek.)

Is the ascension of Mr. Krivoski to executive assistant and the reassignment of Mr. McCutcheon related? I have no idea - his position on athletics is unknown. But even though the timeline is worthy of note, you could also argue that he also oversaw the creation of the "Death Star" as well, which makes one believe that he's been behind those efforts.

Could it have been a personal thing? There's no evidence to say one way or another.

Aside from Mr. Krivoski's ascension, another potential reason for the reassignment could have involved that perennial bugaboo in terms of the Patriot League - football scholarships.

Last December, on the eve of a vote to discuss whether the league would implement football scholarships, Lafayette president Daniel Weiss famously interviewed with members of the student newspaper, spelling out why he was going to be voting "no" on football scholarships.

In the ensuing frenzy among Patriot League watchers conerning Mr. Weiss' comments, McCutcheon was mostly noted for his absence, neglecting to comment on the matter. To this day, it's unclear whether he is in favor of football scholarships, or against.

Which begs the question - was McCutcheon's reassignment a way to remove an athletic director that was in favor of football scholarships, which is presumably in direct opposition to President Weiss' view on the matter?

Again, there's nothing in the public record to say yes or no - but again, the timing of this meeting, and the reassignment, is curious.

*****

Ultimately, we have no idea why Lafayette reassigned an athletic director only eight days before Patriot League Media Day in football.

But we do know that it's not every day that an athletic director, who has graduated ninety-seven percent of the athletes under his watch last year and has also seen a fair amount of athletics success in football and men's basketball, gets reassigned.

And we know that his reassignment leaves us with a whole lot of questions that have not been answered. Perhaps, in the future, we'll find out more.

But what's abundantly clear is that the identity of Mr. McCutcheon's replacement will speak volumes about the future direction of athletics at Lafayette College - and, quite possibly, the Patriot League.

President Weiss, you're on the clock.

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