Dick Gould on Bowlsby Hire

Dick Gould is revered not only as a Stanford coaching legend, but also for his wisdom on administration, fundraising, admissions and more. The search committee in 1991 that hired Ted Leland as Athletic Director included Gould, and he again served on the committee that this week hired Iowa's Bob Bowlsby. Gould sat down with The Bootleg to talk in depth about the search and selection.

I'm sure there were several excellent candidates.  What were the important things the search committee was looking for to differentiate the candidates and make this choice?

The first time the committee met with each other - I had no idea who was on the committee - until the middle of December.  We had a meeting before Christmas.  That was where we first met each other.  Then we started meeting twice a week through January.  The job was posted January 1; people had a month to apply.  I might add that neither Bob nor anybody else who was a finalist actually applied for the job.  During that month, we went out and talked to constituencies in pairs or threes, or even had them come into our committee in some cases.  We asked them what they thought Stanford needed, where is Stanford now, and what challenge they thought we faced.  What were the things going well.  What could we improve.  How can we not just maintain, but also get better.

That ranged from me to students, who frankly don't know that much about the state of affairs, but it was good to get their input.  We talked to people in the University, such as Student Affairs and different constituencies.  We talked with administrators and staff here.  We talked with coaches.  We talked with a lot of people that month when we were collecting résumés from those who actually did apply for the job.  Then we sat down and went through all the résumés, of which there was a big binder full.  We picked out those which we wanted to look at a little closer.  In the meantime, we also broke up and contacted every athletic director in the Pac-10 Conference and asked them for their opinions of who is out there that might be a fit for Stanford.  We talked to several conference commissioners, including Tom Hansen of the Pac-10.  We talked with other athletic directors who are really well thought of throughout the country.

One of them was Bob Bowlsby, who was called because of his reputation.  He was the National Athletic Director of the Year.  He has been very active in the NCAA.  He hasn't just been on committees; he has been chair of all these committees he has been on.  He is just going off the basketball committee.  The good part is that he is going off it, from our standpoint, because it is very time consuming.  But he has had a leadership position in almost every one of these committees he has been on, so he obviously is really well thought of as a leader.  In talking with him and some of these people, the follow-up question was: 'Would you have any interest in this?'  I don't recall who talked to him, what the answer was, or even if the question was posed to him.

We started looking at candidates and pulling up things from backgrounds, and it became apparent as this guy's name came up at the top of lists of several people.  'If you can get this guy, get this guy' was the word on the street from several people who are very well respected in the field themselves.  So that kind of turned the radar stream.  There were several candidates like that, very frankly, who we actually talked to.  Bob was our last interview, and he carried himself very, very well.  But it certainly was not a job he sought out.  I think that he was very happy at Iowa; there is no question about that.  But I think there was an intrigue about Stanford when we were meeting with him.  He was really intrigued by the possibility of being here.  So we're just glad that he came out for an interview and glad that it went well.

At the beginning, you said that you wanted to see who could address Stanford's challenges.  What did you all as a committee summarize were the challenges put forth for this next athletic director?

Obviously, the financial challenge is always a big one.  The setup at Iowa is different in that it is a state university with a lot of state support, but on the other hand, we had to have somebody who was comfortable with the financial aspect of the job.  That right away goes to football.  You cannot run a $4 million deficit each year.  You cannot run any deficit each year.  So what is maybe the best way to make up some of that difference or make up the difference?  That of course is in football.  I think one of the things people were looking for was somebody who could mesh the ideals of the University academically and the concern and welfare for the student-athlete with someone who really respected the power of football and the importance of football to the success of the University and the Athletic Department, financially and otherwise.

Does that mean it was important to you and the committee to find somebody with "big-time football" experience?

I speak only for myself, but I thought that was very important.  I think that is very important within the realm of where we are today.  I think it's important with the new stadium and new coach that we find a way to make this thing work, and I think this is an example of a candidate who I had confidence can do that.

Do you have any professional knowledge or experience with Bob Bowlsby?  I saw that Iowa built a $12 million tennis facility under him.  Is there any overlap in your tennis knowledge of him?

No, I wasn't concerned with that at all, other than the fact that he is obviously committed to a broad-based program.  From what he tells me, it sounds like a wonderful facility.  They have 12 indoor courts, as an example, which is quite a commitment.  But I think the biggest thing in my mind, and I think I speak for many of the members of the committee if not all of them, was someone who could meld the values of the University and the welfare of the student-athlete and at the same time could have the best chance of supporting the football program.

What did you find in him through that interview that made you and the committee think, 'Wow, this guy is the right fit'?

I think his experience in hiring coaches speaks a lot.  He made a very good football hire.  He also is a man of very high integrity and ethics.  He has hired coaches in football, men's basketball and women's basketball as well as several other sports, and they have all been good hires.  I think the football program has been in a major bowl game the last several years.  They have really had a lot of success with the hire he made there.  The men's basketball team has been in the post-season the last couple of years.  Those major sports, so to speak, he has had a major influence on with his hires.

What did you all find personally when you engaged him one-on-one in the interview that suggested charisma or maybe a Stanford fit?

Well, it's interesting because coming from a public university with public state support, although he was a college varsity athlete, wrestling is not like playing football or playing basketball necessarily.  Yet there was something about him with the way he answered questions, the way he stood on his feet.  I wouldn't necessarily say 'charisma' is the sole word.  A lot of people are very charismatic, but it's a lot of words.  The effect he had on me in terms of his sincerity and his integrity and his values were really the things that stood out in my mind.  I think he is a great fit for Stanford University.  And I think he is a person who can have a marked effect on promoting our football program, which is critical.

A lot of outsiders may see 11 straight Directors' Cups and think this place is Camelot - that this athletic department is on cruise control.  Was it important for you all when you were interviewing candidates to find people who were willing to try and make this a better place and not just maintain the status quo?

I speak for myself, but in my mind, that was paramount.  I would be very disappointed in any of my colleagues on this committee if they were not always trying to improve what they do in their role in the University - whether it be as Provost or as President or in the tennis program or in the Humanities program.  We certainly didn't want somebody who came in and the first thing they said is, 'Well, I hope that I can maintain the standards that have been here.'  You want someone who is willing to say, 'Hey, I know that there are things that might be pretty good here, but let's see how we can make them better.'  I think that is critical.

When Ted Leland was here, there was a pattern in a number of the coaches he hired that had some experience in private education.  He said that was important to really understand how it is to work with the admissions standards here.  You might think that in hiring the Athletic Director, you want something parallel.  Bowlsby's background is Iowa and Northern Iowa.  How did you all find the comfort that you could bring somebody who doesn't have that admissions experience?

That is a good question.  The primary thing I felt was that he could talk to anybody within the University.  I thought that he could listen to anybody within the University and outside the University.  I feel he is a very good listener.  I feel that he will be very effective in promoting any agendas that he has.  Not because of charisma - again, that can be a false word.  But I think because of his style, anyone in the University would sit and listen to him and hear him out.  I think that is really important in several areas that he will have to be dealing with.  Not just the Faculty Senate, the President or the Provost, but also the Admissions Office, etc.  That doesn't mean that the world has changed, but I think that Bob has the ability and personality that people will listen to him.  He will not offend.  I liked his demeanor in that way.  He will not turn anyone off.  People will listen, and that is all that anyone can ask.

Is that to say that he will be a strong advocate for Stanford Athletics to the other parts of the University?

I think it is imperative that he be able to do that.  I think that Ted [Leland] did a pretty darned good job of that, and it is important that be carried on - and if anything, elevated.

How hard was it to turn to an outside candidate, as opposed to the inside candidate who is already so familiar with the successes as well as the areas that need to be fixed here?

We have good people in our department right here.  Number one, Bill Walsh has done a great job.  If he were willing to stay on for an extended period of time, I think he could be a tremendous A.D. for Stanford.  On the other hand, you don't in my mind want to hire someone for a year or two.  It is important that you look ahead.  I think internally we have some very strong people, and it is important that we have someone who can work with all these people.  I think very frankly that Bill Walsh is going to like this guy.  I think that is very, very important that they be able to work together, and hopefully Bob can entice Bill - in the best of all worlds, Bob will be able to work with Bill together to further Stanford Athletics.

You described Bob as being a "finalist."  What was the structure?  Did he go through a process before a final interview?

There was a binder full of applicants for the job.  In addition, we went out to talk to people getting recommendations for who we thought might fit this job.  Bob was at the very top of several people's lists, whom I have a great deal of respect for.  Then, this is someone who you look at very closely.  In meeting him, it became even apparent why people thought so much of him.

So he was already deemed a finalist before he came in for that interview weekend?

You don't spend the money to bring people in unless you are very interested in them.  There were a series of people who came in.  I can't tell you how many, but it has been a very intense last three weeks.  We have talked to some very capable people, men and women.  I guess by nature, anybody who came in for an interview you would say is a serious candidate or a candidate we were looking at seriously, which is one way of saying that they were a finalist, so to speak.  There were some very qualified people.

Bob Bowlsby was your personal top choice?

That is not fair to the other candidates.  Let me put it this way: Bob Bowlsby was an overwhelming choice.  There were some outstanding candidates at the very end.  I would say a handful of people who I felt would be a great fit for Stanford.  I certainly would put Bob Bowlsby at the top of that list, and obviously this offer would not have been extended if that were not essentially a universal choice.  If there were such a thing as a backup, I would not have been embarrassed to put forth any of two, three or four names.  It was a very, very strong pool at the end.

Do you feel better about the future of this department and Stanford Athletics knowing that Bob Bowlsby is the guy coming in?

I have a tremendous confidence in the Athletic Department in general, and in general we have some tremendous people in place.  I do think that it is time for a fresh look at our structure and the way that we do business, and I think Bob is a person who can do that with a fresh look.  I think that he will be decisive, but he will not come in and make any rash decisions.  I also feel that he will look at it squarely.  The respect that he had from his staff back at Iowa was very, very good.

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