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Dr. Ted Leland
Dr. Ted Leland
Chat Wrap: Dr. Ted Leland

Sept. 21, 2001

For a list of upcoming chat guests, visit the Community section.

Moderator: (12:13 PM ET ) Dr. Leland has pushed his chat back to 2 p.m. ET. Please join us then.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:01 PM ET ) Welcome everyone! I'm surprised that anybody would be interested in asking me questions. I feel like our athletes and coaches have much more interesting comments to make. Since I'm just a bureaucrat, I anticipated a boring hour. I'll try to take the questions as rapidly as I can.

San Francisco: As a leader, how have you and your staff helped the players to deal with the tragedies that occured last week?

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:06 PM ET ) Clearly, everyone from staff to student-athletes were upset about the tragedies that have befallen all our citizens last Tuesday. Immediately after the incidents, we made university staff, psychologists, human resources professionals and religious practitioners on campus available to our students and staff, but mostly, I think our student-athletes and staff relied on each other to help them over the initial shock. Especially as they were trying to contact their families. I guess in a way, all of us at Stanford athletics benefited because we really are a family here. I think that helped.
Relatively quickly, we decided to cancel al of our athletic contests for the upcoming week. It was clear to me that the coaches and student-athletes didn't want to compete. I think it was a great comfort to them that they had time to work through their feelings about the tragedies.

Angela Ransome: Dr. Leland, What would be the best advice you would submit to me if my goal is to some day be an Athletic Director of a college, and what critical steps need to be taken to put me in the right direction, if any? Thank you for your time.

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:22 PM ET ) Dear Angela,
Thanks for the question and I wish you luck in your deliberations about your future. Let me divide my advice (such as it is) into two general categories. First of all, before embarking on a career track where your goal is to become an athletic director, in my opinion, some things about your own professional style and a little bit about your own drives and passions. In other words, anyone who wants to be a DI athletic director, should have the following professional characteristics, 1) a passion for college sports - this is a profession for FANATICS, 2) you should be a person who deals well with uncertainty - you've never solved all of your problems in this job, 3) you should be willing to work long hours and sacrifice other life goals and passions because division I college athletics takes a total focus to be successful and 4) you should be a person who loves to multi-task, friends using a high-tech saying, in other words, if you're a person who like your professional life in neat little piles that are easy to organize and easy to get your arms around then athletic administration is probably not for you.
If you're comfortable that you might fit or someday fit the above profile, then I think there are some professional steps you may want to embark upon. 1) Need to get a entry level position (internship) at a college or university program, I think you'll want to start your career in the same level as that you want to end it in, the move for high school to small college or junior college to Division I is not a easy transition to make. 2) In terms or education, a masters degree is the least you must have and I usually suggest an MBA and LLB or a Ph.D. for those who really strive for the athletics director's position in a top university, 3) Be as professionally active as you can, join NACDA or other professional organizations to try to acquaint yourself with the issues. 4) Read as widely as possible and become involved in issues that affect all of higher education. Athletics departments will, in the next 30-year, need leaders who understand the technology and day-to-day workings and also need to understand the academic and research institutions that we represent.

Tim (New York): How are you able to keep talented coaches and staff members? Do you have trouble with turnover?

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:32 PM ET ) We've been very lucky in that over the last 11 years, we've had very little turnover. My experience tells me that keeping coaches isn't about money or salaries, I think a coach's tenure is more related to the quality of the teaching environment, the coach's perception as to whether the university and the department cares about them as individuals and finally, retention is based on coaches feeling that they can be successful - given the tools that they have to work with. So I spend a lot of my time making sure that they have the tools and environment and the knowledge that we care.
We have an additional issue at Stanford and that deals with the local housing market, we were at least for the last few months one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. In the last couple of years, we lost some VERY good coaches who loved working at Stanford but couldn't find adequate housing.
As I said above, over the last 11 years we haven't had much turnover, but in the last two we have had for us, a number of coaching changes. Off the top of my head, I think we've changed 12 head coaches in the last two years. We've had four retirements, two have changed jobs within the athletic department, five head coaches left because of housing problems, and a couple others for mutual reasons.
I hope that the last two years have just had a coincidentally high turnover rate. One of the keys to our success has been the stability of our coaching staff over time.

Michelle (Las Vegas): Do you think the ratings for College and NFL Football games would be as high, if gambling on sports was completely eliminated?

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:38 PM ET ) I really can't answer the question, although it seems logical that part of the interest in college and professional come from gambling. Every once in a while at a professional game, you hear a murmur in the crowd after a score or missed field goal. Sometimes then, I've wondered out load why the fans would even care and someone would remind me that it is a point spread issue.
I think, that gambling on college athletics is a huge underlying problem. Not only because it's so prevalent on our campuses and it also affects so negatively so many young people's lives who get in trouble. But also it can cut to the very core of what competition and fair play are all about. The recent revelations or accusations about the actives about the University of Florida basketball player must make everyone in that community heartsick and leave them with a feeling of betrayal.

Susan (San Mateo): In your tenure at Stanford, do you have any regrets?

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:49 PM ET ) Susan, this a great question and of course have some regrets. Let me give you a couple issues that I think I could have done a much better job on would and should, do if they came up again.
1) I thought I did a poor job of communicating with various constituencies about faculty housing and the future of the first hole at the golf course. From the very beginning there was an easy solution which we eventually stumbled upon, but only after the process became very antagonistic, and that was really my fault.
2) The Notre Dame band show, that we in the athletic department approved before the game, was a total miscalculation of appropriate sensitivities.
3) I've always thought I could have done a much better job of supporting and working with Bill Walsh when he came back the second time. I was an assistant coach on his staff in the mid-70's during his first tenure at Stanford. We are and continue to be great friends, but I wasn't able to make his second stay (1991-93) as successful, even though Bill brought the same passion and professional skills to the university. There was never any disagreement or misunderstanding between Bill and myself, I just always felt that he was such a great match for Stanford that I should have found a way to make it work. At the same time, I have to admit that we lucked out in hiring Tyrone Willingham as Bill's replacement, so in the end, again, I stumbled upon a good thing.
Really, there are numerous other regrets that I have and mistakes I have made that "bug me" on a day-to-day basis. We'd like all 850 of our student-athletes to have a fantastic experience here at Stanford and of course, that's not always the case. In addition, you'd always like to look back and say you hired the "perfect" coach or staff person, and that is obviously not always the case.
All in all, I think we've made some pretty good choices.

Ian (Worcester): What kind of music do you listen to? Favorite groups?

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:51 PM ET ) I listen to oldies-I'm a child of the 60's. This drives my children crazy! I really don't have a favorite group.

Dick (Atlanta): What is your favorite sport to watch?

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:54 PM ET ) At the risk of sounding trite, I enjoy watching all sports. Last fall, when my wife caught me at 3 am watching live women's Olympic weightlifting, I thought she was going to push me out of the house.
I would say that I enjoy watching any sport where I know some of the competitors, or coaches. I have been in college athletics for so long and have had so many different experiences, that I enjoy watching them and seeing how there doing - maybe even watching their progress. So, I guess my favorite sport to watch is one where I personally know some of the competitors or coaches.

Jack (San Francisco): What is the most important factor in developing a meaningful base of donors?

Dr. Ted Leland: (2:58 PM ET ) I would think there are really two factors in developing a donor base, 1) have a great program - one donors will be proud of and 2) having a good communications program to keep donors involved. The Internet has been a great help in this respect.
As an aside, Stanford athletics has raised over 25 million dollars in cash donations each year for the past two years. This is probably the most successful fundraising of any athletic department in the country. In addition, we are one of the only Division I athletic programs in the country that doesn't trade seat location for donation. In our fundraising, we've been successful by running a quality program, one that our donors like to be associated with.

T.J. (Palo Alto): Dr. Leland:

2 Questions and a comment:

1. Why is Stanford going along with the Bay Area Olympic Committee's bid to host the 2012 games when it is painfully clear that Stanford needs a new, fan-friendly football stadium ASAP (one without a track, so possible Olympic renovations won't cut it)? I don't see any benefit to stalling on stadium renovations while this Olympic bidding process drags on forever. Also, given recent events, is it even a possibility that the Bay Area will win any U.S. bid to host the Olympics (i.e., isn't New York the sentimental favorite)?

2. Are there any plans to add open, grass fields anywhere near the stadium, or is the AD going to continue to build fences everywhere?

3. Despite the tone of questions 1 and 2 above, I congratulate you on presiding over the best collegiate athletic program in the nation. You, your department, and (most importantly) the Cardinal student-athletes have made us Stanford fans proud.

Dr. Ted Leland: (3:06 PM ET ) I agree, that it is "painfully clear" that we need a new fan-friendly football stadium ASAP. In fact, I almost listed lack of progress on a new football stadium as one of my regrets when I answered the previous question.
In answer to your specific question, it is now quite common to have a stadium that accommodates track and field and "converts" to a stadium without a track. There are at least four stadiums in Europe that now do this. That is the kind of design we are talking about - 100,000-fan stadium with a track that converts to 55,000-seat football stadium.
The Bay Area bid committee for the 2012 Olympics has been encourage by the USOC to continue with its bid despite some public sentiment that New York should be the lone venue still under consideration.
In terms of the open grass fields, I hope you've noticed that we are building three new fields at the corner of El Camino and Serra. We are combining these new recreation/athletic fields with some flood control work that is a joint effort with the university and the local municipalities. You'll notice these fields are depressed about six feet below grade so that they can serve as a water catch basin during a torrential downpour. Thus saving flooding lower down the creek. The rest of the time, we'll be able to use them for intramurals, recreation and local community programs.

Boston: With the highly successful promotion of synchro swimming, women's water polo, and softball to varsity in the 90's, how does Stanford Athletics decide who and when to add additional women's teams to the varsity roster (given the almost assured success of any team under the umbrella of Stanford Athletics)?

Dr. Ted Leland: (3:10 PM ET ) I am never sure how the athletic department decides anything, I think we'd make a great case study for a business school. Bu that I don't mean that we do it the right way, but we seem to muddle around internally and come up with some good solutions. It's not because of the process we use.
We just announced that we've added women's lightweight rowing as a varsity sport to being limited competition in 2001-02 and full competition in 2002-03. This should add about 30 females to our athletic program and get us closer to our stated goal of 50% female participation.

Palo Alto: With the pressure to win the Sears Cup each year, how does the Department balance its resources toward non-varsity students?

Dr. Ted Leland: (3:17 PM ET ) The athletic department is a university auxiliary and so financially it is a "tub on its own bottom." In affect, this means that the university provides funding through the athletic department for recreational activities and physical education classes. So the funding source is separate. Thus, we do not have to make trade off between varsity athletics and non-varsity athletics. We do have to make trade off with respect to facility usage between these two groups. Those decisions rest within athletics.

Dr. Ted Leland: (3:21 PM ET ) I would like to thank everyone for their questions. I apologize for not being able to answer all of them. Due to the success of this chat room, we might have to do another in the future. Hope to see you at our soccer and football games this weekend. GO CARDINAL!