Monday, January 11, 2010

Fire Peter Roby

When Northeastern announced that it would be cutting its football program, I greeted the news with cautious optimism. I knew the harsh realities of college football, particularly at the D-I AA level, and I knew that the program had been playing on borrowed time since the 80's.

With that in mind, I imagined a greater future for Husky athletics. Here were my assumptions:
  • The annual $3 million would be recycled back into the athletic program.
  • The money would be used to fulfill scholarship debts for all sports, particularly successful sports such as baseball and women's soccer.
  • The money might not be available immediately, as the players are guaranteed their scholarships, but 20+ seniors, transfers, and equipment savings would allow for a substantial sum to enter use by the end of the Fall '09 semester.
  • The school would offer transparent, timely, and fair reasoning for funds reallocation in a public forum.
For weeks after the announcement, nothing happened. And every moment that passed reinforced the distinct possibility that the school was royally screwing this up.

They did.

Ed Matz, women's soccer coach, is leaving Northeastern for UMass. It seems strange, because he's brought in two All-Americans, made the NCAA tournament, and made two CAA tournaments, winning one, and winning the regular season CAA title, in the last two years. This is a level of success which has not been attained at Northeastern since the women's ice hockey and field hockey teams were fixtures in the top-10 nationally over ten years ago.

This is the "sustained excellence" Peter Roby, NU's esteemed athletic director, always speaks of.

And yet, Matz is leaving for a program which, by most accounts, lacks the potential of the Northeastern squad. He does not have Veronica Napoli, Devin Petta, or Steph Gordon. It's a move forward in overall stature, but a decided step down in quality. Northeastern would handily beat UMass if the teams played today. All of this makes it very difficult to understand why, exactly, Matz would leave.

Luckily, journalism isn't dead at Northeastern, and WRBB recorded a fantastic interview with Matz. It's about 20 minutes long.

I will preface what I'm about to say by stating that I am not an Ed Matz fan. I spent a substantial amount of time with one of his players, and I believe his player management and perception of player value is severely skewed. I don't think he is an irreplaceable coach, and I don't think he's a Bill Coen or a Greg Cronin.

But Matz won. He won a lot. He won tournament games that Cronin has yet to win. He took teams to a tournament Coen has yet to make. He did this all despite having four fewer scholarships than his opponents. He did this despite having virtually no fan support, a salary most DI coaches would scoff at, and absolutely no support from the athletic department or the NU administration at large.

When you listen to the interview, you realize the sad state of affairs in the administrative office in Cabot Gym. That an organization would reward its best-performing employee by giving him nothing speaks to Roby's severe disconnect with reality. Of all the sports in the school, how do you give women's soccer nothing? Northeastern gets more exposure from an NCAA women's game than it does from a season of ice hockey, and it doesn't think it needs to fully fund the sport?

Fire Peter Roby. Fire him now. He was hired following a "national"search and has done nothing to prove he is a capable AD. He has not offered contract extensions to Coen or Cronin. He allowed Matz to leave a meeting and leave the school. He cut football without following through on a single promise of additional funding. He repeatedly lied to the student body about funding sources for a mythical on-campus football stadium and the Matthews Arena renovation. He allowed the university administration to discount the importance of athletics.

He needs to be replaced. He needs to be replaced with an athletic director who sees the value in winning teams, who respects the needs of coaches and student-athletes, and who lives and dies with Husky athletics.

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