Leadership legacy

McGee has taken Sports Management Institute from ground floor to top level of administration...

Mike McGee has devoted his career to the business of sport.

At the end of this month, McGee will retire after more than 40 years as an intercollegiate athletics coach and administrator. Behind him is a long and distinguished service record that includes successful athletics directorships at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Southern California -- and for the past 12 years -- the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

He also has spent considerable time shaping policy through his involvement in various NCAA Committees. A current member of the Division I Management Council, McGee also has been an active participant with the Council's working group on incentives/disincentives, which has played a key role in the academic-reform structure and the development of the Academic Progress Rate. In addition, McGee formerly served on the Division I Working Group to Study Basketball Issues and the Division I Committee on Athletics Certification.

But perhaps McGee's most significant career contribution is the Sports Management Institute, a specialized executive management program for sports professionals that not only has influenced the development of dozens of high-ranking administrators and professionals at various levels of sport but also has the potential to continue to affect the sports world for a long time to come.

Founded in 1989 by Southern California, the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the Institute grew out of McGee's doctoral work in the graduate business school at North Carolina. Through his study and research, he saw an increasing need for "generalists" in the athletics field.

"We needed not specialists, but someone who could come from the sports information office or from the ticket office," he said. "We needed to provide them an opportunity to at least start down the path to becoming what one might call a generalist."

In an effort to do just that, McGee developed the Institute, initially a joint venture between the athletics departments and business schools at Notre Dame, North Carolina and Southern California. A broad curriculum ranging from management strategy, legal issues and marketing to media relations and fiscal management is taught -- not by practitioners in the field -- but by some of the leading faculty representing some of the top business schools in the nation.

Classes are limited to 25 participants, in part to encourage interaction between faculty and peers. Aimed at individuals in mid-to-top-level management positions who aspire to be athletics directors, executive directors or general managers in collegiate, amateur or professional sports, participants spend one week in the summer and one week in the winter in residence at one of the sponsoring institutions. They also complete a six-month project in conjunction with their employers.

The 2005-06 class of the Sports Management Institute will convene June 19 with a seven-day session at North Carolina.

Influential alumni

With nearly 270 alumni to its credit, including 43 who have gone on to become directors of athletics, a glance at the roll of the Institute's graduates reveals a litany of familiar names in intercollegiate athletics administration. Athletics Directors Dick Baddour of North Carolina; Mike Hamilton of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Mitch Barnhart of the University of Kentucky; and Arizona State University's Lisa Love are among program graduates.

The Institute also has taken on three more sponsoring institutions -- McGee's own South Carolina as well as the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan. In addition, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics signed on as a participating sponsor in 1997-98.

McGee believes the interaction between faculty and the development of peer relationships are just two of the factors that have contributed to the Institute's success.

"I think what is created is a kind of exciting opportunity for educational stimulation and growth on the part of each of the participants, many of whom have not had the direct business school experience that is provided," he said. "That becomes a stimulus for future study on the part of participants, and it stimulates learning, often times at mid-career, which serves the participants well in their future."

Word of mouth, he believes, has kept the quality of the candidate pool high year after year, and it's the quality of those participants that keeps McGee from being surprised at the Institute's success.

"You can talk to almost anybody who's been and they will say this was a time well spent, primarily as they look to give back to their own particular institutions," he said.

However the word is getting out, the Institute's reputation and popularity is such that the selection process is becoming more rigorous. Some candidates in fact are turned away.

Directing from retirement

McGee officially steps down as director of athletics at South Carolina on June 30, marking an end to a career in athletics administration that began in 1979, when he was named special assistant to the athletics director at North Carolina. A year later, McGee was appointed as director of athletics at Cincinnati, and in 1984 he accepted the same post at Southern California. He guided the Trojans program until 1993, when he took over at South Carolina.

Before joining the administrative ranks, McGee focused on football. An all-American at tackle for Duke University, he was the 1959 Outland Trophy winner. He was drafted by the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals in 1960, but a neck injury ended his playing career in 1962. The following year, McGee accepted an assistant coaching position at his alma mater. He also was an assistant at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, before accepting the first of two head-coaching opportunities. McGee spent one year in charge at East Carolina University before returning to Duke where he served as head coach from 1971 to 1978.

As McGee fixes his sights firmly on a new chapter of his own future and that of the Sports Management Institute, the veteran administrator said plans for the Institute may include expanded opportunities for coaches, women and ethnic minorities.

"One of the things we're going to look at in the future, and with my retirement now I'll be able to focus on this, is how to provide coaches an opportunity. It may take a two-year Institute. It may be strictly in summer segments," McGee said. "We had looked at an entry-level program and dismissed that, but we've always had a healthy representation of women and minorities. We may look at something that is more specifically designed in those areas. Time will tell."

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