Navy AD Driven to Keep Success Going

In Part Two of my interview with Navy AD Chet Gladchuk, we talked about how he deals with fan complaints; Navy's football independence; whether or not retirement is on his radar; and what he wants his time in Annapolis to be remembered for.

You would think that a Navy fan would have very little to complain about these days with all the success that has been enjoyed by the sports teams in Annapolis. Add to the on-the-field triumphs, the amount of money that has been spent on fan-friendly amenities like, for example, the $42 million renovation of Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, and it is hard to believe that the Navy athletic director still gets complaint calls and emails.

 

According to Gladchuk, most of the issues brought to his attention by fans are pretty minor; however, he handles them all the same way.

 

"Whatever (fans) complain about, we address. It doesn't make any difference what it is. We may not agree (with them)…but we have always tried to accommodate the loyal fan base that has been such a big part of this program," said Gladchuk.

 

The main reason that the needs of the fans are taken care of in quick order by Gladchuk and his staff is because the Navy athletic director has a very clear memory of how things used to be.

 

"We treat our constituency the way we do…because number one, we have never forgotten where we came from. I was there when we had 5,000 season-ticket holders. I was there when we were winless. I was there when we got blown out by so-and-so. I was there to see what the stadium was like eight years ago. I have never lost sight, and I never let my staff lose sight of that."

 

"We are all about supporting the people who support the program," continued Gladchuk.
  

The key to keeping fans happy, according to Gladchuk, is a pretty simple business philosophy.

 

"We pride ourselves on anticipating what issues might come up, and we try to alleviate those. My administrative team is absolutely focused on anticipating…we don't like to react…we like to be prepared on the front side."

 

Keeping fans content while doing everything he can to ensure 32 intercollegiate sports teams are successful takes a little bit of juggling – and a very good accountant.

 

"Fans have got to understand that our budget has tripled since eight years ago. Everything from retaining great coaches and buying them equipment, takes resources. And the government is slowly but surely withdrawn funding in support of the intercollegiate athletic program, so we are for the most part a ship on our own bottom."

 

 "There are some business decisions that I have had to make to be able to accommodate the needs of a successful division I program, but we have never lost sight of the fact that the fan base and our alumni are the fiber of what we really represent," said Gladchuk.

 

Gladchuk's ‘get ahead of the problem' strategy is also applied to a once popular topic amongst fans – Navy football's independence as opposed to joining a conference. This topic has become less newsworthy in the past few years because of what Gladchuk calls Navy's ability to find "a seam" in the system.  

 

"It's getting very difficult as an independent to navigate the Division I waters because the conferences are just swallowing up everything…television, bowls, money, corporate sponsorships. Everything is pretty much aligned with the packaging that comes with a conference. For us to get our piece of the action has taken some maneuvering, but it was maneuvering that we were able to launch seven or eight years ago."

 

"When you are an independent, you sink or swim based on your independence and it has served us well. And I don't think there is any need right now for the Naval Academy to be contemplating conference alignment," he continued.

 

Gladchuk added, "And with the credibility that we've built with the virtue of our success…and with the relationships that we have built with individuals, in the media, and with the bowl community, we have been able to chart our own course and capitalize on it. There is a seam for Navy that we have worked hard to create."

 

That seam includes a 10-year contract with CBS for all home games as well as contracts for bowl games through 2014.

 

Creating this avenue for Navy has been a lot of hard work – something Gladchuk is used to. His involvement in intercollegiate athletics has spanned 35 years. From being an associate athletic director at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to his current position at the Naval Academy, with stops at Houston, Boston College, Tulane, and Syracuse in between, Gladchuk has put together an impressive career. But is he ready to call it quits anytime soon? Don't bet on it.

 

"I don't think about retirement," said Gladchuk, without hesitation.  "I'm not at the point where I would think about anything other than being challenged everyday. My juices are flowing. My adrenaline is so high right now with things that I'm doing that I wouldn't know how to turn it off. I can't contemplate what retirement means – yet."

 

"Now maybe someday, mother nature kicks in as it does for everyone…time stops for no one. And all of a sudden you start to feel as though your energy levels aren't quite as high as they should be in fairness to the institution or in fairness to your coaches," he continued.  "(But right now) I wake up every morning and I'm ready to go. I've got things to do. Retirement isn't an issue."

 

Well, that should end any concern that Navy fans should have about the "R" word when it comes to the Naval Academy athletic director.

 

Even though a nice retirement community in Boca Raton isn't on his radar quite yet, Gladchuk does have a good idea of what he wants Navy fans to remember him for once he does call it a career.

 

"There is only one thing that is most important to me and that is (to make sure) we maintained our level of success and that we didn't let it get away. We built it through the hard work of a lot of people and the will of an institution. There is no one person that made this happen. It is the will of the Naval Academy to be good at what it does. It takes a Superintendent, an Academic Dean, a Commandant, an Athletic Director…It takes a chain of command that all buys into the collective strength of what Navy is all about for us to achieve and maintain this success. And I want to look back and say, we didn't let it get away."

 

"And that's what drives me everyday and that is the legacy hopefully that I will leave someday. That there were no valleys…just peaks," concluded Gladchuk.

 


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