Gladchuk's Love it or Leave it Approach Works

I recently had the chance to sit down and speak with Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk about a variety of subjects. Foremost on my mind was finding out how the leader of Navy athletics approaches requests from other schools to speak with his coaches about job opportunities. I was surprised to find out he does not always give permission, and if coaches want to leave Navy, that's fine with him.

According to a fairly reputable web site that tracks which college football coaches are in jeopardy of losing their jobs, Hawaii's Greg McMackin and Maryland's Ralph Friedgen could be in trouble. Of course this is complete speculation on the part of the creators of this site, but what would happen if the athletic directors of these two schools, or search firms that they hire, ask Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk for permission to speak to a member of the Midshipmen coaching staff? Considering the success Navy has enjoyed, coupled with the validation of Paul Johnson's offense in the ACC, it is definitely within the realm of possibilities to think that head football coach Ken Niumatalolo or offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper could be high on the list of a few athletic directors. Also don't discount the potential interest in Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green who has his undersized unit outperforming both defenses at Hawaii and Maryland, as well as 88 other schools. Last season, Army interviewed both Jasper and Green for its head coaching vacancy before deciding on Cal Poly's Rich Ellerson.

 

Army's request was not the first time Gladchuk has faced the dilemma as to whether or not to allow permission for a coach to speak with another school, and it probably won't be the last. Even before the phone rings though, Gladchuk always has a plan, and that plan starts with a firm bottom line for all of his employees.

 

"I look at (a coaching job at the Naval Academy), in no other context than it is one of the best jobs in the United States and if somebody does not want to be here, they need to leave," declared Gladchuk. "I don't want anyone to work here that does not want to be here. It's very simple. If you don't want to be here, don't be here."

 

Gladchuk's opening salvo into this topic sounded like he was channeling Donald Trump. The only phrase missing was the proverbial, ‘You're fired.' However, you really can't blame him for exuding so much confidence in his product. Gladchuk, who arrived in Annapolis in September 2001, has turned the Naval Academy athletic department into a winning and profitable organization. Navy's success, especially on the football field, has put Gladchuk in a position where he can not only retain, but attract top-notch coaching talent.

 

Gladchuk's power position and the lure of the Naval Academy were put to the test in December 2007. That's when Paul Johnson decided to leave Navy and take the head coaching job at Georgia Tech, kicking off an immediate battle between the two schools for the services of the assistant coaches.

 

To Navy fans, who were riveted at the time by every update given by Annapolis Capital sportswriter Bill Wagner, it seemed as though the process was a bit chaotic. However, Gladchuk quickly dismissed that notion, saying once Johnson decided to leave, everything went very smoothly.

 

"It was an organized, premeditated, calculated plan that we were prepared to execute."

That plan started with offering long-time assistant coach Ken Niumatalolo the head coaching job. Once he was onboard, according to Gladchuk, it was time for the athletic director to "step-up."

 

"It was a matter of sitting with Kenny and determining what we wanted to do. For it to happen, Kenny needed the support of the administration, and I was prepared to help him and help the Academy keep in tact the people who were most important to the program," said Gladchuk.

 

"The (assistant coaches) didn't stay here because of one or two or three or four or five reasons," he continued. "The football staff stayed in tact, number one, because of Kenny (Niumatalolo). And number two because the athletic director stepped up…and provided them with the resources they needed to make certain that they felt that we were not only treating them fairly, but compensating them fairly. That's life – it's the way it works," said Gladchuk.

 

"Half of them (would have) wanted to go to Georgia Tech if we didn't have our act together. They wouldn't be here."  

 

Although Gladchuk did not discuss specific coaches, several sources during the transition in 2007 said that offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper and strength and conditioning coach Mike Brass were two of Niumatalolo's top priorities. Both decided to stay in Annapolis which is a testament to not only Gladchuk's commitment to the program, but to a school that has a lot to offer to staff members, both personally and professionally.

 

"We have a magnificent environment – a wonderful community to live in – we have a great school system for children – we have one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country – and we've got a fan base that is proven to be legitimate, both at home and on the road. We have gone to six straight bowl games and have five more bowl games lined up," said Gladchuk.

 

Navy's success has allowed Gladchuk to accumulate the resources (translation: raise the money) he says is necessary to keep the football staff in tact.

 

"You have to compete for good people. Anyone that thinks that you can compete and be successful at this level on the cheap…there's an old saying…you get what you pay for."

 

"Now we are not the SEC or the Big 12, but in the meantime, if it is in the best interest of our program, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we are competitive with anyone so that it is not a matter of money that is the issue," continued Gladchuk

 

"We pay our coach's top dollar in terms of the market."

 

The commitment to the staff may start with money, but it does not end there. Gladchuk said that there is never any hesitation when it comes to providing all of the other intangibles needed to succeed.

 

"There is nothing that we say ‘no' to whether it is video equipment, to the way we travel, to the bonuses that we extend at the end of the year," said Gladchuk.

 

Of course with good pay and ample support comes a simple demand from the Navy athletic director – win. And win they have. During Gladchuk's tenure, Navy's 32 sports teams have won nearly 70 percent of their games and are consistently among the leaders in the country in graduation rates.

 

"No one has an agenda here other than the institution, the commitment to the midshipmen, and the commitment to winning on the field and in the classroom," explained Gladchuk.

 

It is this type of success that attracts top-notch talent like Cindy Timchal and Dave Brandt to the Naval Academy; keeps successful coaches like Billy Lange at the Naval Academy; and keeps other athletic directors calling the Naval Academy in search of their next coach.

 

However if Gladchuk thinks the inquiries he receives from other schools are not genuine, he will not allow suitors to speak with members of his staff who are under contract.

 

"There have been a couple of times when I didn't give (a school) permission to speak to a coach, or two, or three, but there were extenuating circumstances because there was an agenda on the other side that was short of actually wanting to hire that person," said Gladchuk. "They want to add a name to a list, or they want to find out how we do something…get inside to find out what we are doing at the Naval Academy to make it work. There are some situations that are just bogus. And I know pretty much what that is about."

 

Gladchuk admits that earlier in his career he used to try too hard to convince a coach to stay at their current job.

 

"The most significant mistakes that I have made as an administrator have been when I've talked someone into being somewhere that they didn't really want to be. And I can do that because I can create a healthy picture. And I can put money on the table. And I can offer the type of amenities that make us really competitive. But if a person's heart is not in what this institution's all about, then I'm the first person to agree that the individual should probably go somewhere else," explained Gladchuk.

 

"So therefore, for a coach to look at his or her options, if the grass is greener (somewhere else) that is probably where you need to be. In the meantime, if you take a look at the coaches we have here, they are doing one heck of a job because they are committed and they are dedicated not only to the institution, but to the midshipmen as well. And that is the type of equation that has led to our success."

 

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In Part II of my interview with Navy's Chet Gladchuk, which will be for subscribers only, topics covered will include how the athletic director deals with fan's concerns; whether or not he has considered retiring; and when he does retire, what he would like his legacy at the Academy to be.


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