It took eight months, a few serious candidates and one global pandemic, but UCLA has (reportedly but unofficially) hired a new athletic director.
Martin Jarmond, a former starting guard for UNC Wilmington and former lieutenant in the Ohio State and Michigan State athletic departments, will replace Dan Guerrero, who is stepping down at the end of June.
Jarmond is 39 years old and one of the youngest athletic directors in the country, a fast-riser with a stellar reputation for engaging alumni and donors and for interacting with athletes.
Yep, the Bruins landed a Power Five AD, and for that they should be commended.
Like all recent UCLA athletic directors, Jarmond has a master’s degree — two, actually: in business and sports administration (from Ohio University).
Unlike all recent UCLA athletic directors, he has no ties to UCLA.
He has no tied to California, to the west coast or to the Pac-12, in fact.
(Best we can tell, he has never lived west of East Lansing.)
Jarmond will be the first African-American athletic director in UCLA history and helps keep the Pac-12 on the leading edge of diversity within that key leadership position:
Five of the conference’s 12 ADs are either female (Washington’s Jen Cohen) or minority males (WSU’s Pat Chun, Stanford’s Bernard Muir, ASU’s Ray Anderson and Jarmond).
(That’s in addition to six minority football coaches … but no minority men’s basketball coaches at the moment.)
Jarmond’s Big Ten background underscores one of many questions for the Bruins moving forward:
Stability at the top, which is essential for success on the front lines.
We expect chancellor Gene Block to retire next year — UCLA disputes that notion, by the way — which could leave Jarmond with a new boss sooner than later.
What’s more, Jarmond’s goal is believed to be the chair at Ohio State, whenever current Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith steps down.
That could be a few years or many years, and there’s no guarantee Jarmond would get the gig, which is arguably the best AD job in the country.
But UCLA shouldn’t assume Jarmond will stick around for the long haul like Guerrero and his predecessor, Pete Dalis.
In our view, this hire should be viewed with a dash of skepticism: Not because of Jarmond himself — he’s well credentialed and perfectly capable — but because of the fit and the support.
Jarmond has spent the past decade at a football powerhouse in the midwest — what Ohio State athletics needs, Ohio State athletics gets — and at a private school in New England.
UCLA is neither, and it is neither by a light year.
But more than that: It’s a UC school with endless bureaucracy and limited regard for athletics.
Our guess is that Jarmond asked all the right questions about campus support during the interview process, and our guess is that Block offered up all the right answers.
But support promised doesn’t guarantee support given.
The role of athletics within the UCLA culture was apparent in the background of the search firm and the makeup of the search committee.
The firm, WittKieffer, specializes in executive placements within the non-profit, health care and education worlds — not in college athletics.
The search committee, meanwhile, had eight members. Only one, Christina Rivera, the senior woman’s administrator, works in athletics.
Were UCLA hiring a dean of the business school, would it stock the search committee with head coaches? Of course not.
(Monroe Gorden, the committee chair and vice chancellor for student affairs, told the UCLA alumni association that he played football for the Bruins for a “couple years.” He is not listed in the Bruins’ official records as having earned a letter.)
All of which is to say that the issue here isn’t Jarmond.
The issue is UCLA.
Will it provide Jarmond with the support necessary to succeed?
Will it assist Jarmond in alleviating the massive debt he’s inheriting?
The Bruins are expected to finish the 2020 fiscal year with approximately $35 million in cumulative debt.
Campus has offered to help cover the shortfall with an interest-bearing loan, another indication of its disinterest in athletics.
Imagine Ohio State charging its athletic department for debt relief?
And the situation will assuredly get worse in Westwood before it gets better:
Given the resource commitments to football and the Olympic sports, expenses will remain in excess of $120 million. But without a significant uptick in football ticket sales, there is little hope for relief on the revenue side.
We expect that shortfall to surpass $50 million by the the end of FY21 — and that’s with no disruption to the football season.
So Jarmond, with his Ohio State background and private school experience, is inheriting a debt-ridden department in a cash-strapped conference with a struggling football program during a global pandemic at a school that ignores athletics under a chancellor who’s close to retiring in a system that steeped in red tape in a city that has so many better things to do.
What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, we would say that about 99 out of 100 athletic directors the Bruins could have hired. This is a multi-year cleanup under the best of circumstances.
It’s not that UCLA can’t support athletics when it wants to: Jarmond’s contract seemingly is proof of that.
According to multiple sources, the Bruins will pay Jarmond approximately $1.45 million annually for six years, making him the highest-paid AD at a public school in the conference; they’ll cover his buyout at Boston College, which is in the $2 million range; and they likely will offer him housing assistance in Los Angeles.
All told, they are expected to spend in excess of $10 million on this hire (and that’s without performance bonuses).
To that, we say: Good for Jarmond, because you get what you can get.
But after handing over $10 million to an athletic director whose program is trapped in a $40 million sinkhole, will the administration return to its time-honored tradition of ignoring athletics, particularly in such a tumultuous period?
To repeat: The issue isn’t Jarmond; the issue is UCLA.
If the former gets support from the latter — true support, real support — he’ll manage just fine.
If not, we’ll send a rescue party into that sinkhole.
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Author: Jon Wilner