Friday, April 24, 2015

This is What Normal Sounds Like

Peter Pilling

WKCR's sports show, The Firing Lion, interviewed new Columbia Athletic Director Peter Pilling Wednesday night. The entire show is archived here.  Please listen to it.
I have since confirmed that the comment made by Ryan Young at the top of the show -- that this was the first time the Firing Lion had interviewed a Columbia AD live -- was true. Remember, this is a show that's been around for 30 years. So that fact alone is stunning and says a lot about, a lot of bad things, about Pilling's predecessors. It conversely says a lot of good things about Pilling. I am more than overjoyed that Pilling did this interview and really sat in the booth with the student broadcasters for a long time. 
The interview was really a love fest, and that's understandable considering Pilling's very recent arrival and the fact that the WKCR crew was clearly happy to be dealing with a warmer and more cooperative individual.
But that's the whole point. Columbia is now going through a major upgrade in its athletic department simply by the fact that a sane individual, without vindictiveness, defensiveness, and dictatorial control in his heart is now running the place.  
I'll talk more about this mental health upgrade in a moment but based on the interview, there were more very important revelations from the interview:
1) Bagnoli is Pilling's "Guy" and this hire is very much how he'll be judged
Pilling confirmed that he began talking to new football Head Coach Al Bagnoli well before he was hired as athletic director. He admitted that was unusual considering he wasn't hired yet, but that just goes to show how aggressively Pilling was pursuing Bagnoli. In addition to Bagnoli himself, I know that Pilling contacted some of Bagnoli's former players and coaches to discuss the Ivy league, the Penn program and Bagnoli's talents in particular. So, it's simply no stretch at all to say that Bagnoli's track record here is going to be the number one set of data that we judge Pilling by in the coming years. If I were Pilling, I'd be fine with that. 
This educated pursuit of Bagnoli, where Pilling kept after him but still solicited extensive advice and information from people who knew the situation better than he did, stands in stark contrast to the way former Athletic Director Dianne Murphy hired Pete Mangurian. Murphy was also single-minded in hiring Mangurian, but she didn't seek out outside advice or much other information about him from anyone else. The results were disastrous and the fiasco of that hire will forever tar her resume. 
So we've gone from an AD who had Mangurian as her "guy," to an AD who has Bagnoli as his "guy." HUGE upgrade.
2) Pilling relates to people as... gasp... human beings! 
Pilling shared lots of nice personal details about his family, where he's currently living, how his wife is a big Mets fan, etc. 
Can anyone imagine any of our last three AD's talking about things like that? 
Almost everything comes down to human relationships in the end. So this is yet another upgrade.
3) Sanity Arrives
When you're the one sane guy in the asylum, lots of people point at you and call YOU the crazy one... or the trouble maker. 
That's how I and some of the rest of us who have demanded change over the last few years have been made to feel. 
I may not be a psychiatrist, but a person does not need to be a professional to know another person is dealing with mental illness... especially when that person shows those tendencies in public over and over. I say this not to stigmatize the mentally ill, but to admonish all of us who see mental illness to stop ignoring it out of politeness or fear. The worst is when other people support and enable the mentally ill person. I believe people in the Columbia administration were guilty of all of the above regarding Murphy and Mangurian. And I'm not even the slightest bit unsure of that. 
Now Pilling may not turn out to be the greatest athletics director in America and we may not win tons of football or basketball titles under him, but the upgrade in sanity alone is an absolute godsend. 
So let's not even BOTHER Pilling by telling him of the sick and mean athletic department misdeeds of the past. Why should he even hear about that when he's already demonstrated a professional and sane attitude and has acted accordingly? Maybe he'll come to understand why critics like me did what we did to rid ourselves of the madness, or maybe not. I don't care for any more vindication than the firing of Murphy and the hiring of Bagnoli have already brought me. And I am quite certain that the other people who publicly protested and were willing to put their names out there are not looking for thanks or acknowledgements either. 
What we wanted and have always wanted was a department that did the necessary work to make the Columbia athletic teams something the fans and alumni could be proud of. Pilling has already done that. I am sure we are closer to winning in the crucial sports of football and men's basketball than we were just a few months ago. 

South Lawn Campaign
A couple of updates on the excellent, worthwhile, and wonderful effort to have some football walk through practices on South Lawn this fall, (or at least one).
1) Get the Women Involved!
This shouldn't just be about football. Some astute alumni have suggested to me that we also get the women's soccer team, the field hockey team, and men's soccer to do some drills on South Lawn too. Actually, this is something that could make the Friday before Homecoming really special. Women's sports need a lot more exposure on campus and this is a great way to do it. 
2) We've Been Here Before
Former football player and Trustee Emeritus Ed Botwinick '56 reminded me this week that the Columbia football team DID used to have a practice or two each week on South Lawn in his days with the team. So this is not really a new thing and we're now only trying to reintroduce a tradition from Columbia's winning days! 


DOC said...

Two questions : How do we know for a fact that Diane Murphy didn't seek outside advice on the Mangurian hire ?
With regard to south lawn - is this a cause for CAEC to get involved in ?

oldlion said...

300 air head professors at our alma mater are now "demanding" that the university divest from fossil fuel companies. Do you think that wing nuts like that will sit idly by for a football practice on the lawn. It is the left wing faculty who are anti-athletics and who follow the same tired litany. Why ask for a campus confrontation. And of the 300, care to guess how many are also huge BDS fans?

Jake said...

Relax these guys won't even know what's happening. And putting women's sports into the mix is also a neutralizing factor. There will be no confrontation.

I remain, very truly yours, Richard Szathmary said...

If we divested fully from fossil fuels, our athletic teams would have a hell of a job getting up to Baker Field and back. Honestly, these academic types never quite think these things out fully. do they?
On the other hand, we probably have to admit that these characters are likely not big fans of intercollegiate athletics in the first place. (Which has long been a small but key probelm for Columbia.)

Jake said...

All the Ivy schools and more deal with this problem, and yet Harvard wins championships, Etc. Our wacky faculty is a convenient excuse. Our new AD will not give this nonsense a second thought.

WOF said...

Great post today, Jake

I was all set to make a long post about Mangurian's inability to assume any fault or blame whatsoever yesterday and then figured why spend time on the past when the future looks so bright.

Totally agree that the biggest victory is going to be if once and for all the school and department will actually treat everyone with respect and honesty. That is a big change and everything else will work itself out.

Kiernan said...

funny that there's a show at CU called The Firing Lion; I wonder if anyone recognizes the very conservative homage?

oldlion said...

William F. Buckley, Jr.

Coach said...

Do we have an update on the names of the players that the new football staff have signed?

oldlion said...

Jake, HOW ABOUT THOSE NEVER SAY DIE BASEBALL LIONS! Let's see a huge turnout this Saturday.

Columbia_Fan said...

I've been told that the D looked much better than the O at yesterday's spring game.
Not many holes made by the O line. Passing was a little less than impressive. Any attendees have comments?
Some recruits on the side line.