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Opinion

Pitt’s New Strategic Plan Mostly Platitudes

Last week Pitt Athletic Director Scott Barnes disseminated a six-point plan throughout his department. It was entitled “The strategic plan for Pitt Athletics: 2016-2021.”

Here’s how it was laid out in a recent story from the Tribune Review.

– Compete for championships and annual finishes in the top half of the ACC standings and by 2021 the top 10 percent of the Learfield Director’s Cup standings that measure achievements in all sports.

– “Recruit, develop and retain” top student-athletes and “extraordinary” coaches and staff members. Meanwhile, recruiting budgets will be evaluated in an attempt to meet the coaches’ needs and plans.- Achieve academic success at a level that compares favorably to the ACC and schools nationwide while assisting “at-risk” student-athletes.

– Grow the donor base and increase private financial support.- Spend money in “a strategic and responsible manner” while growing the licensing and merchandising program, especially the recent return of the Pitt script logo.- Increase Pitt graduates’ involvement with the athletic program.

Fans of Barnes and his approach so far would likely call the plan an organized, aggressive set of goals by which he is encouraging all of the university’s teams to achieve.

They’d be right.

Skeptics would say it’s D-1 Athletics meets “Office Space.” A thirty page booklet full of “mission statements”, guidelines, corporate talk, and committee forming. A paper monument to 2016 middle management tactics of looking busy in planning instead of properly working towards success. Save a tree.

They’d be right too.

Consider me in the second camp. Not because anything that Barnes wrote was wrong. It’s just came off as “No *bleep* Sherlock.” After reading the document my sense was it could’ve been summed up by saying: “Do everything we are doing, but start doing it better.” After all, is there anything on that list they aren’t saying at Wake Forest, N.C. State, and Boston College as well?

Maybe I’m coming off harsh because I’ve read far too much of this type of rah-rah motivational game-planning from folks high up the business chain. And my gripe usually is, ”Just say what you really mean instead of ‘corporating’ it up with a bunch of subheadings and pie graphs, and slogans.”

So let’s do that with Barnes’ proposal. Let’s cut through the “I want to show Patrick Gallagher how my ducks are in a row” stuff, and say what Barnes really means.

Compete for championships and annual finishes in the top half of the ACC standings and by 2021 the top 10 percent of the Learfield Director’s Cup standings that measure achievements in all sports: Translation… No one is asking this athletic program to be like Ohio State in those standings. But can’t we at least be better than Akron?

“Recruit, develop and retain” top student-athletes and “extraordinary” coaches and staff members. Meanwhile, recruiting budgets will be evaluated in an attempt to meet the coaches’ needs and plans.”: Translation… Let’s keep Pat Narduzzi even when a bigger school comes calling. Oh, and the next time a local QB stud like Phil Jurkovec comes along, let’s actually get him instead of being flattered that he didn’t totally blow us off.

Achieve academic success at a level that compares favorably to the ACC and schools nationwide while assisting “at-risk” student-athletes.”: Translation… Go ahead and recruit kids that probably couldn’t finish an on line course at the University of Phoenix if you want. But if you do, don’t get busted trying to push them through school like Syracuse and UNC did.

Grow the donor base and increase private financial support: Translation… See that guy who just wrote a $50K check to your program? Anytime he asks you to take a selfie with his snot nosed kids, you’ll do it.

Spend money in “a strategic and responsible manner” while growing the licensing and merchandising program, especially the recent return of the Pitt script logo: Translation… Easy on the coaches’ bar tabs on road trips. And we finally gave these stodgy, Golden Panther types the logo they wanted. So you will wear it ANYTIME we ask you to put it on in front of a camera. You will tattoo it on your faces if I ask you to do so!

Increase Pitt graduates’ involvement with the athletic program: Translation… That big white kid that just got to the Western Conference Finals…the one from New Zealand that Draymond Green kicked in the junk? Steven Adams? What do you say we get him back to a home game to wave to the crowd once in a blue moon so the world is reminded he at least spent a few months on this campus?

Granted, Barnes’ more delicate and cerebral touch is probably the better way to go in the current world of academia. But in this day and age, wouldn’t it be nice if on occasion your boss really could cut through the B.S. and make it that simple?

Follow Tim on Twitter

Header image: Panther in the Snow by Dave DiCello – Used under license by Pittsburgh Sports Now

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