Saturday, July 27, 2013


      Soon after summer gives way to fall, 32 year old Tommy McClelland will settle into his new gig as Louisiana Tech Athletic Director.  October 1st is the first “official” day on the job in Ruston for the only A.D. in the country who finds the Dollar Shave Club a waste of money.

Courtesy: Shreveport Times
    Yes, he is fresh-faced. But he is also right-off-the-vine with his ideas and approach to leading a program.

     McClelland jumps into the mix at a time when the college football world is changing on a monthly basis. “It’s like a moving Plate Tectonics, you know? For 50 years, athletics was just a certain way. It’s not that way, it’s changing. I think that’s where you have to begin making sure that you’re always in position yourself. When those Plates move, you can enhance your institution,” McClelland said recently.


     Plate Tectonics? Not your average point of reference when talking about the changing landscape of college athletics.

     However, Plate Tectonics features movement of less than 100 millimeters annually. In college football, outside of the Big Ten, things are racing ahead much faster.  Over the last ten days, the big five conferences (SEC, Big XII, Big Ten, Pac 12 and ACC) conducted their Media Days.  The Big Boys pronounced loudly and proudly that they just might take their large portions of pigskin pie and leave the rest of Division One football behind.

     Big XII commissioner, Bob Bowlsby said, “There are programs that have $3 million budgets and programs that have $160 million budgets. How do you begin to try and do things that are good for one that are also good for the other?”

     Whether or not there was a,‘good ol’ days of governin’ the NC-Yay-Yay,’ McClelland said, “There was a time when it was one school, one vote. But we live in a different era where there’s weighted votes.” Bowlsby and his big money brethren (Mike Slive-SEC, Larry Scott-Pac 12, Jim Delaney-Big Ten, John Swofford-ACC) believe the schools that serve the most desired pie should get the largest slice.  However the pie is divided, McClelland believes the ones holding the knives should be the Athletic Directors. “The Athletic Directors in particular, having them have a bigger say. Whether it’s Joe Castiglione at Oklahoma or Tommy McClelland at Louisiana Tech,” McClelland said,” (we) have a better understanding and grasp of what’s going on in our environment than in the past when you were primarily leaning on chancellors and presidents who weren’t necessarily as engaged in the decisions they had going on.”

     If the Athletic Directors wield the power, as McClelland suggests, that would leave the aforementioned five gentlemen holding the bag.  That doesn’t appear to be their plan.  “In some ways, we’re stewards of the game,” according to Mike Slive.  

     Steward.  As in, “the head of the household.” As in, “directing the servants.”

     If the Conference Commissioners are the Stewards and they are approved by the school president’s… who are the servants?  Not the Athletic Directors. McClelland said, “You know, at the end of the day, the Athletic Directors are the ones on the ground.  At the end of the day, I’m sure the coaches would want to have more control. You could take it all the way down to the student-athletes, who-at the end of the day, that’s who it’s all about.”  The soon-to-be Top Dog continued, “This is not about control. It’s about shaping this organizations that’s in its best interest. That’s positive. It’s not about reclaiming control, it’s about adding a voice to the process.”

     McClelland’s voice will soon be the one making the final calls on all things athletic at Louisiana Tech.  Yes, he is old enough that his voice has made the big change.  But he is definitely young enough to warrant some concern regarding how he will be received by those under him, including every head coach on Tech’s campus. “I never say, ‘So and so works for me.’ I always say, ‘with me,’” McClelland said. “I am the boss. I’ve been placed in this position. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the authority. It’s about, ‘This is my desire, this is your desire. Now… how do we want to accomplish this together?’ Yes’s are yes’s and no’s are no’s. As long as we’re working toward a common goal together, that’s how I want to be perceived and that’s how we’re going to accomplish this.”

     What “this” is, for the time being, is success on and off the field of play for Louisiana Tech student-athletes. What “this” is in the near future, could be “hanging on for dear life,” while the Big 5 proclaim, ‘Let them eat cake.’