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EDITORIAL: Priorities, accountability key for Scholl’s success

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Photo by Matthew Serafin / matthew.serafin@marquette.edu

After an unpredictable year in the Marquette athletics department, the university announced Tuesday in a university-wide news brief that Bill Scholl would become Marquette’s new athletic director following months of searching to replace Larry Williams (before, Bill Cords occupied the position vacated by Williams in Dec. 2013).

Scholl has over two decades of experience in athletics administration, leading the Ball State Cardinals for the past two years, and Notre Dame for 23 years. He oversaw 19 Division I programs at Ball State and advanced the academic performance of the men’s basketball team within two years.

The new hire comes at a time when Marquette’s flagship athletic programs are going through a period of renewal and change. Last year, with the departures of Buzz Williams and Terry Mitchell, Steve Wojciechowski and Carolyn Kieger took over as head coaches for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, respectively, with the explicit goal of winning more titles in the Big East, and Bill Scholl echoed that same sentiment in Tuesday’s news conference.

“Marquette clearly is committed to excellence in all of its athletics programs and boasts one of the premier men’s basketball programs in the nation,” Scholl said in a university news release. “I look forward not only to helping maintain that standard but working with our programs as we strive to reach new heights.”

Those heights, though, must not solely be winning titles; they must also include integrity and excellence in the classroom. Coaches under the purview of Scholl should take to heart the importance of treating student athletes as students first, and athletes second. Student-athletes work hard in practice to compete at the highest level in collegiate competition, but they are still students who deserve a well-rounded, quality education. This aim is particularly poignant at Marquette, where service learning and academic excellence are trademarks of the institution.

Scholl showed some commitment to this end, saying Marquette student-athletes will primarily be students.

“Our student athletes will represent Marquette in a way that will make alumni proud,” Scholl said. “Our student-athletes will be true students, and leave Marquette prepared to take the challenges that lie ahead of them.”

Equally important to the director’s role is accountability. In a 2012 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Buzz Williams claimed to “manage academics to give (players) a chance to be successful through a culture of trust.” His rhetoric, however, fell short as student-athletes’ misconduct continued. The gap between Williams’ talk and the players’ actions indicated a failure to hold students responsible to a higher standard of excellence. This failure to act upon seemingly laudable rhetoric must be a reality of the past if the athletic director– just like any coach– is to be truly accountable. Administrators, coaches and players must be held accountable for their actions on and off the court, and this all boils down to Scholl.

As Kieger said in a news conference in May of last year, “The values, family atmosphere and investment in people, the emphasis on character and integrity is what drew me to the institution in the first place and is drawing me back. There is only one way to win, and that is the right way.” Scholl must hold everyone in the athletics department as culpable for their actions and the actions of their colleagues, and that necessitates Scholl taking meaningful steps to uphold excellence through effective leadership.

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