Doc Starr is a Hall of Fame Athletic Director!


I know of no one better to highlight the evolution of college athletics more than Dan Starr, PhD.  Doc, as most of us called him, was sort of an accidental athletics director.  He is a history professor and ended up AD at Canisius College for nearly 26 years, during the time when conferences were forming and the split between Bowl Game schools and the rest of Division I.

As the story goes, the college paid $600 in repairs to future NBA thug Larry Fogle’s car…so the AD gets fired and they ask squeaky clean Dan to come in and take care of things.  His first order of business was cleaning up the mess with the NCAA.  Timing, as they say, is everything and during this major infraction era conferences were born.  That train passed our probation station but Doc made the best of it.

He got us into a conference that fits not only the philosophical mission of our institution but is also financially aligned with it.  He elevated women’s sports to varsity and can even boast the first NCAA Woman of the Year, Mary Beth Riley.  But that is his press pack…I know SO much more…

I know that if you wanted a good laugh, watch him clean his office.  When I say clean, I really mean look through the many piles of papers and books stacked up on every surface.  When he announced his retirement he started to organize and pack…I think it took him two years and I think at the end he just put the rest of the stuff in boxes and brought it to his new office on the other side of campus where the history professors are located.

…and to this day I still get a random newspaper clip or book in my work mail, sometimes with a note of a funny memory and other times with no note at all.  Other of my colleagues get the same thing…Doc must be cleaning again!  I have kept most of them because he is so observant and his timing impeccable.

I have so many travel memories of Doc…the time he and I were at Disney having port wine with Father Cooke (president of the college at the time) and Father Dugan (longtime chaplain of the athletic department) in their hotel room with the door propped open for propriety…traveling to the NCAA Men’s Basketball 1st round in 1996…driving back from Albany the night we won the MAAC in a mother of a snow storm when we stopped at every rest stop for coffee and to clean the windshield.

The best one was at the end of his AD career when our softball team made another trip to the NCAA tournament, this time in Los Angeles at UCLA.  I was senior women’s administrator at the time and it was clear the new AD, whose name will never be mentioned in any of my writings, was not going to keep me in that role.  Dan got to the airport before I did and arranged for us to travel first class (particularly helpful for a trip across the country in less than 48 hours).  After our game on Thursday we went to the JP Getty Museum then on to Marina Del Rey for some great Mexican food and cocktails.  Anyone who knows Doc knows that a good cocktail is always a good idea!  I’ll never forget the toast.  “You know Jude, it’s been a great run.  I’ve had a lot of fun.  Thanks for whatever you did and for putting up with me all these years.”

Cheers to you, Doc, forever enshrined in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame!

Life is good!


Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta


Athletics and Institutional Support

I think about 14 NCAA schools athletic programs had excess of revenues over expenditures last year.  In the world of profit accounting, their athletic department made a profit. So, let’s see…if about 1,000 schools belong to the NCAA and 14 schools made a profit then…98.6% of schools had to rely on at least some institutional support last year to survive.

Without ever studying the numbers (but relying on my 20 years in college athletics experience) I will venture a guess that most schools provide at least 90% plus of the funds an athletic department needs to function.  Those of us with small arenas (arena is a funny haha word – more like gymnasiums) have a limited ticket revenue stream.  And then there is that silly thing called winning which contributes to the equation.  Let’s face it, those of us who have to budget need to assume the team will have a losing season without much walk-up game-day business.  When there is success then the “extra” revenue can be used for “extra” things rather than for the business of running the department.

Have you noticed that no expense is going down?  Funny thing!  While we experience flat line budgets things like transportation, equipment and the biggest money sucker of all, officials, are going up like a skier on a tow rope.  I call officiating an unfunded mandate.  While it’s tempting not to pay them…well…you know…

Here is another thing about institutional support.  The ability (and willingness) to fundraise can change the amount and percentage of institutional support.  This was something I worked hard to educate folks about during our current self-study.  For our example our fictional school has a general student ratio of 45% men and 55% women.  Let’s say the Men’s Table Tennis team has a coach who is a prolific fundraiser.  He is a world champion and has an international following.  He receives donations which he uses for team travel and recruiting and the players are decked out in the newest clothing and have state of the art equipment.  The Women’s Table Tennis team has the exact budget as the men at the beginning of the year, $250,000.  The men spend $300,000 and women spend $275,000 but the men’s deficit is covered by their booster money.  In spending dollars the men outspent their female counterparts by $25,000 bringing the balance to 52% male and 48% female. OH NO!  But wait, there’s more!  In reality the actual institutional support is $250,000 for the men and $275,000 for the women now showing the actual balance at 48% male and 52% female.  Ahhh…much better…

Here is another question: should the men’s program be limited to how much they can spend even though they work hard to raise it?  Is that really what we mean when we say “gender equity?”

As we embark on a complete organizational review at our school, part of the new initiative begun by our new president, I have to remind the committee that if they are looking at athletics as a profit making venture they are going to have to move to one of those rare 14 schools that flipped their program last year.

Life is good!


Twitter: MidMajorMom

Twitter: JudeCaserta

College Committees-Be Careful What You Wish For

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So here you are, on that coveted committee in your beloved institution of higher learning.  Congratulations!  Or is it a good thing?  Maybe not so much!

You have to time decisions with a calendar, not a clock in higher education.  We have committees for just about everything.  There is probably a committee to study whether there are too many committees on campus.  In any organization, culture shift is a slow process but higher ed brings it to a whole new level.  I graduated from college 30 years ago and there are still several committees on campus studying the same issues we studied in the 1970’s.  Seriously, I am not making that up.  When I was in school, core curriculum was a hot topic and as it turns out, they have been studying it with great fervor for nearly this entire new millennium. 

Committee work is a curious process on a college campus.  We are “highly educated” and tend to look at 72 sides of each issue.  We make sub-committees of our committees and then spend weeks coming up with convenient times to meet.  The sub-committees need to report to the committees and tend to exhaust the angles. Nowhere in the world is form over substance more revered than on a college campus. 

So, the next time you want to be on a committee, keep your hand down…even if it is only to order pizza!

Life is good!

Jude Russo Caserta

Twitter: JudeCaserta

Linkedin: Jude Russo Caserta


Don’t You Dare Say “It’s Only Division III”

Being a college athlete is a big deal.  There are only about 400,000 NCAA student athletes out of nearly 8,000,000 college students across the country.

I just read a very interesting press release posted on the website of the National Federation of State High School Associations titled “High School Sports Participation Tops 7.6 Million, Sets Record.”  Think about this: 55.1% of high school students participated in athletics last year – more than 1 in 2 students had a coach, had to juggle academics and athletics and had to learn what it was like to lose.

What struck me, though, is that when you look at these raw numbers still fewer than 5% of these student athletes participate in college sports in one of the three NCAA ( divisions.  Even if you assume that half of them participate in two sports and one quarter of them participate in three sports that percentage only goes up to 8%.

Not every student athlete wants to compete at the BCS Division I level.  Many of them know they need to concentrate on their studies to get them into graduate school or into the workforce.  Athletics, to them, is a way to round out their college experience.  My son is a Division I student athlete who gets no money to compete in the pool – his scholarship money (full tuition) comes from academic sources.

Parents, as you help your high school student athlete look for colleges, keep mid-major schools on their radar.  They have the greatest percentage opportunity to combine academics and athletics for a fantastic college experience.

Life is good!


Twitter: @JudeTheFoodie

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