Transcript: Scott Dolson introductory teleconference
New Indiana director of intercollegiate athletics Scott Dolson addressed the media on Thursday morning on a teleconference to discuss his new position in Bloomington.
Dolson addressed a number of topics, including the state of the basketball program, the COVID-19 pandemic and much more.
The full transcript is available below, courtesy of ASAP Sports:
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate you joining us and your flexibility here as we introduce Scott Dolson as our new director of collegiate athletics.
Scott will start with an opening statement, then we’ll open it up for questions.
SCOTT DOLSON: Thanks to everyone for taking the time to be on the call this morning, particularly during this most difficult time.
While this week has been an incredible week for me, it pales in comparison to the unprecedented challenges we all currently face. My heart goes out to all those affected and suffering.
While I’m humbled and honored, I want to make clear our focus has been and will continue to be on the pandemic and dealing with the current challenges.
Without question, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is our number one priority and we will do everything we can to support all of our IU athletics family in any way possible moving forward.
This week’s announcement made me flash back to how my relationship with IU athletics really started. Growing up in northern Indiana, I was eight years old when the undefeated 1975 IU men’s basketball team lost to Kentucky in the Elite 8. I remember being absolutely crushed after that loss.
The following year of course IU had the perfect season going undefeated and winning the 1976 national championship. I was hooked for life. I wanted to be the next Quinn Buckner or Scott May.
I was fortunate to make my first trip to campus that summer of 1976 as a nine-year-old to attend the Bob Knight basketball school, and realized for sure I wanted to be a part of the IU basketball program.
I also realized quickly during that week that I might need to find another way to become a part of the basketball team as it wasn’t going to be as a player, being my basketball skills.
Fortunately for me my high school best friend, Delray Brooks, ended up being named Mr. Basketball, a McDonald’s All-American. He committed to IU. When he did, he encouraged me to become a basketball manager because of a couple other player roommates were managers as well.
Subsequently my entire career started with IU athletics in the fall of 1984 as a freshman manager for the IU basketball program and has been packed full with incredible experiences and leadership opportunities ever since, culminating with the announcement this week.
I’d like to thank President McRobbie for giving me this opportunity. It’s definitely a dream job for me, one that I’m honored to have. I’m also really excited and appreciative to be joining President McRobbie’s cabinet. That’s something that is really special to me. I really look forward to participating in the advancement of the broader university in addition to athletics. President McRobbie has been a transformational leader to say the least. I look forward to working more closely with him and his strong and sponsorship senior administrative team.
Also I’d like to say a special thank to President McRobbie for his extraordinary leadership and leading the university through the pandemic crisis. President McRobbie has made extremely difficult decisions. In doing so, has always put the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff first. I admire him a great deal for that.
Thanks also to chairman Bill Stephan and the athletic director search committee. I really appreciate the process and the way the search was handled.
Special thanks to Fred Glass. I cannot adequately express how appreciative I am for the opportunity Fred gave me 11 years ago when he arrived on campus. From the start, we were two pieces of a puzzle that fit perfectly together. He gave me a unique opportunity to be by his side every step of the way, every aspect of the running the department. As a result, I am very confident in my ability to lead IU athletics moving forward and build on the incredible foundation Fred established in his tenure.
Additionally, Fred personified the words ‘Hoosier For Life’. I know he will be cheering hard for us in the next chapter of his life. For me personally, I know I have a great friend for life in Fred, and I will always be grateful for all Fred has done for me professionally and personally.
I also want to thank my wife Heidi, our kids Luke, Sam, Kristen, Zach, and Nick for all their incredible love and support. When Zach graduates from IU this spring and Nick follows in the spring of ’22, all of us will have IU degrees. Believe me, they are passionate IU fans to say the least. This is a really, really big deal for our family.
Finally I want to acknowledge our 695 incredibly talented student-athletes, all of whose lives have been abruptly interrupted, and thank them for the commitment to IU athletics. I look forward to working with them and our extremely dedicated athletics departments, coaching staff, on doing everything we can to maximize their opportunity at such an amazing university.
With that, a special thanks to President McRobbie, to the search committee and Chairman Stephan and Fred Glass. I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone has.
Q. What do you see are maybe the two, three, four challenges coming up next? Coronavirus is on the forefront of everybody’s mind. Looking to that and beyond, what needs to be done for IU?
SCOTT DOLSON: I think first of all, from a national level dealing with all the changes in the landscape of college athletics, whether it’s the name, image and likeness issues, the new transfer rules that are coming, the pay-for-play. All of those are certainly challenges that every school faces.
From my perspective, the key thing in those areas are, number one, we need to make certain we know exactly what’s happening and what’s going to happen. We have to be on top of that. I was already encouraged our compliance staff, our staff, we have to know.
As a result, secondly, we have to be able to communicate those changes to our student-athletes, to our coaches, to our staff so everybody completely understands, whatever the new rules are, what happens with those.
Then finally, as a result, we got to be able to compete with whatever rules we have. As a leader of the department, I want to make sure whatever the rules end up being, we’re on the cutting edge of developing a plan so we help our coaches and student-athletes compete at the highest level. We want to be aggressive on that, be on top of it every day.
In terms of internally, the challenges I think right away are maintaining financial stability. I think that’s a key thing. I’ve got several thoughts on that to move forward to ensure we do that, both internally working on our current budget, being efficient with that.
A part of me that maybe sometimes people don’t know, I consider myself a closet CFO because I worked so closely in that area. I really enjoy working on the financial aspects of the business, like college athletics. We need to be efficient with our budget. We need to be on the cutting edge in terms of revenue generation, work on our campus for challenges from a financial standpoint.
Short-term, I think the emphasis on both continuing to build what Archie is doing with men’s basketball. I think the stability of the winning, consistent winning at a high level in men’s basketball, is huge for us. Secondly, continuing the positive momentum that Tom Allen and the football program have are key things.
I have a list that I created for the search committee that ultimately will be my first-year plan. Just as you said, the immediate challenges, those are the things that come to my mind, internally working financially, working with men’s basketball to get the program where we need it to be closely with Archie, and Tom in football.
Obviously we have some momentum going in some other sports. I talked to Teri Moren three times in the last two days, all that’s going on with women’s basketball, to make certain we’re maximizing the opportunities for women’s basketball to keep that program going in the same direction. Those are things that come to my mind first.
Q. You talked about working closely with Fred, capital improvements. At least as much as current circumstances will allow, what do you want to really maybe spend the next 12 to 18 months spearheading?
SCOTT DOLSON: Yeah, definitely. As I said, there are key things that I mentioned first in terms of with men’s basketball, with football, with women’s basketball, some of the momentum that we’ve got created, really doing all I can do as athletic director to support those areas.
My first-year plan, that certainly is an advantage working so closely with Fred, kind of knowing what the needs are of the department moving forward, understanding kind of what our vision is, is to build on the priorities that Fred established, try to keep the trajectory going in the department.
My plan will be, it lays it out, I have several initiatives that I think will be critical in the first year to start moving out on. I won’t get into a lot of detail on those now. Some will be more visible than others.
I’m really excited about some of the ideas and thoughts that I put together that I think will help with our overall mission, which is obviously maximizing the opportunity for all of our students in every phase, whether it’s athletically, academically or personally. I’m excited about my plan. I’m really ready and prepared to move out once I get into the chair.
Q. In terms of the men’s basketball program, you have overseen that. What have you learned about Archie Miller and the program in the three years you’ve gotten to know him? How do you define success for men’s basketball moving forward?
SCOTT DOLSON: First of all, I feel like I’ve grown up in the men’s basketball program, completely understand the expectations, the high expectations that we all should have. It’s not only important for the athletic department, the university, the state, it’s important for Hoosier Nation. I want the same thing that everybody wants. That’s critical.
Specifically with Archie, from day one I sat in the first interview with Archie with Fred in San Francisco. From that point moving forward, the thing that really has impressed me about Archie is he has a plan, he has a master plan for the program, really everything from a recruiting standpoint, from a player development standpoint, from a winning strategy.
I think a key element not just for men’s basketball but really for all of our sports is you have to have a master plan that you’re working towards, that you evaluate how things are going towards that plan.
To me I’ve been impressed with Archie with that because he doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. He really sticks to his plan. I think if you want to really be a consistent program, have consistent success, you need to have a consistent vision and work that plan. I’m really, really confident in that. That’s the thing that impressed me about Archie.
The other thing about Archie, working so closely with him, a lot of people may not know this because you just couldn’t because you’re not behind the scenes, but Archie is a really good CEO of the program. Archie obviously is a basketball person, has grown up in basketball. I’ve always been impressed since he got here with how he operates the entire program. I think that’s critical, as well. He has a good feel in all aspects.
As you know, we want a broad-based program. We want to do it all. Winning is really important. We’re not afraid to say that. That’s a key thing. At the same time we’re here to develop leaders, develop the complete package for our student-athletes. Archie believes in that, too. I really like how he’s a CEO as well in addition to what he does with the program.
Q. Moving forward, Fred has made some tremendous progress in the football program, yet there’s more to be made, get more people to come the games, more success. What kind of ideas do you have in terms of growing the football program?
SCOTT DOLSON: That’s a great question. I appreciate it.
For me, football is huge for us. I’m stating the obvious for obvious reasons. One of the things that I was very fortunate with is that Bill Mallory took me under his wing, I’m extremely grateful for that. There were times after Bill retired several times that we got together and met and had lunch. He really wanted me to be the athletic director someday. That was just an honor that he thought that way.
He gave me invaluable advice along the way on what he felt were important things to do to build the program. I think that’s critical, things that he talked about. He and Fred and I talked. That’s a continued investment in the program. What I mean, not just money, which is important, but also just a vision for what does the program need to be on the cutting edge of a modern day football program. Fred has done a great job of that. I want to continue to do that.
In addition to that, while that’s happening, the program is being built, we have momentum, we need to make certain we’re on top of what the modern day fan needs from a fan experience standpoint.
To increase crowds, to do all what we need to do on that end, it’s important we have a great marketing plan, sales plan. That’s great. We will do that. We’ve had to do that. We’ll be aggressive that way. But fan experience is a really big deal. The modern day fans’ needs are changing. Make sure we’re certainly aggressive there.
To build the program, it’s kind of two streets working together right next to each other going the same direction. One is building the program with Tom, what all the needs are to keep advancing the program. At the same time working on our fan experience and creating an environment that when we do get fans here, they have a great experience and they want to come back.
Part of my plan is to continue to build on both.
Q. You had me at Delray Brooks.
SCOTT DOLSON: I’m telling you, had it not been for Delray encouraging me, I was coming to IU regardless, but when I did get the call this week, great news, I immediately thought back to that day because when Delray committed, he said, Hey, you really need to think about becoming a manager because you love IU more than anybody I know. It was just really good. If it weren’t for him, I would never have had that opportunity and here I am today.
Q. Talking to Fred over the years, he’s got two buzzwords, ‘to win’. Specifically football and basketball. To win he wants continuity and support. Are those your two buzzwords? Do you have three, two different ones? Five years from now what am I going to say?
SCOTT DOLSON: That’s a great question.
I think my buzzwords are, it’s really more phrases, I really believe in keeping things simple and I really believe that you have to have a master plan. I think all of our coaches, which obviously includes men’s basketball and football, if you have a really strong plan, a real philosophy, I don’t believe in we hire a coach and we turn over the keys of the program and kind of hope they’re the person who can get it done.
Part of what my plan is, I want to make certain we have a codified plan for all of our sports. When you have a master plan, you know philosophies from a roster and recruiting standpoint, player development, where are we going in terms of our strategy, how do we compete. In terms of football, are we a hurry-up offense, slow down, passing, what is our defensive philosophy.
I certainly don’t want to micromanage that at all, but I want to make certain that I know what their plans are because I think consistency comes from having a plan, keeping it simple and working that plan.
From my experience, I think the students respond well when they know what the plans and expectations are. I have seen that work. I think that’s critical.
That’s a long answer. I apologize for that. I think having a master plan is really important.
From my perspective as athletic director, I think I need to do everything I can, whether it’s helping with scheduling, creating the fan experience we need, just being a sounding board for the coaches. I want to be there every step of the way where I’m needed but also not to get in the way. I want to let the coaches have the freedom to execute their plan.
I hope one of the things you say five years from now is there’s really an alignment. You can start with football and men’s basketball, but really all of our sports and head coaches, that communication is clear, they know what my expectations are, I know what their needs are, how we work together. I think that transparency, that communication, that spirit is critical. If we can all be together on this, I think the chances of our success are much greater.
Q. You’ve had the opportunity for the last 11 years to be Fred’s number two. Number twos are different in a lot of different work environments. Can you talk a little bit about the role you’ve had with Fred, how much responsibility he’s given you so that it puts you in a position from day one to hit the ground running, tackle this job as well as you can from day one?
SCOTT DOLSON: Sure. Like I said, I’ll forever be grateful for Fred because I think he gave me unprecedented responsibility and access and ability to work, as I said, side-by-side with him from the beginning.
I think when he arrived here, particularly because he had not worked in specifically the college athletic department, I think he had some needs, maybe some gaps that I could really help fill for him because of my experience and knowledge not just of IU athletics, but college athletics in general.
Don’t get me wrong, Fred is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He had a good idea what was going on. I think I could help him in a lot of ways fill some gaps.
At the same time for me, he really helped in filling some gaps for me that I didn’t realize I needed. I always thought maybe when an attorney was hired in athletics, there was a lot of maybe contractual, technical aspects that an attorney can help me. I really was wrong on that.
Fred is one of the most skilled risk management, crisis management, understanding how to lead through difficult times. I learned a great deal from him.
In terms of how we worked together, again to his credit, what a strong leader Fred is, he had me involved in everything side-by-side, sitting in meetings with him. Some of the things I think I’ll miss the most when Fred leaves are the times where he and I were either alone in his office, he had this thing where he would grab this baseball bat, just the two of us, he would walk around. We would talk about tough times. It was really just great for me, what an incredible learning experience.
We’d start off a lot of days where he would be driving down from Indy. I’d call him. It’s one of my favorite things to do, call him while he was in his car. We would spend 20 minutes, what have you, talking about the day, the challenges, kind of working together.
I can’t imagine a better situation to prepare someone to take over this type of position than I had with him. Like I said, I’ll always be grateful. I know I consider him not just one of the best mentors I’ve ever had, but additionally just a great friend and someone I have a high degree of respect for in all ways.
Q. You mentioned earlier the CFO part of this job, your experience with that. Obviously you’ve been around the finances of this department for a long time. This could change based on what ends up happening with the coronavirus situation. What are you planning for in terms of how this is going to affect the department? What are you prepared for in terms of the uniqueness of Indiana’s financial situation?
SCOTT DOLSON: It’s a good question.
One of the things that was interesting is my grandfather was a CPA, he was the director of the Indiana Department of Revenue later in his career. As a result I think maybe I inherited some of his kind of CPA skills, the love for numbers. I probably inherited his athletic ability, too, which is why I probably ended up being a manager, not a player.
He instilled that in me. It’s something, like I said, I really enjoy. When I took over as Varsity Club director, 33 years old, relatively young, that’s when I really started working on specifically all the aspects of the financial matters of a large organization. Again, when Fred took over 11 years ago, that increased to the department.
First of all, it’s really important to have the close relationship with our CFO. I meet weekly, work through all aspects of our finances. Additionally, it’s really important for me, we have an incredible relationship with our CFO on campus, John Sejdinaj, who is extremely talented, we meet regularly with him, coordinate all our financial aspects with him. That’s critical moving forward.
As it relates to the current situation with the coronavirus, I think for us, what we’ve been doing here in the last few days, is trying to evaluate as best we can the impact on canceled events, the impact on what we’re hearing in potential NCAA tournament money, trying to figure out the impact, also doing all we can do now to be on the offensive, knowing there are other measures we can take now, knowing we could take some hits, to mitigate those best we can.
Fred and I have been working really closely together on that along with our CFO. We’ll continue to do that moving forward.
Back to the previous question, what am I all about, I just like to be really aggressive and try to as best we can look ahead. Even though I’ve been here a long time, I pride myself on not being stuck in the past. We always know how to do things because we’ve done them. I like to be really aggressive thinking forwardly. That’s something that’s important in this area as well, is what do we need to do to make sure we’re certain we’re on the offensive, mitigate any challenges coming down the road.
Q. In terms of working with Fred, what kind of plans are put forth in terms of navigating and supporting coaches, student-athletes, communication? How are those plans being formulated and how are they going to continue to evolve?
SCOTT DOLSON: Like I said, Fred and I have been working around the clock in so many ways. Fred has been awesome, as he always is. He and I are working on that.
We kind of set our priorities from the start, stating the obvious. I said this earlier, obviously the health and safety of our students, coaches and staff is our number one priority. In addition to that, we’re trying to help everyone deal with this unexpected outcome.
Part of it is how can we stay connected at a time when everyone is required to be disconnected. We’re trying to come up with ideas and ways, virtual meetings, through knowing what’s coming in terms of how are we going to deal with the classes online, providing the support that we do for our student-athletes. We’re working on all different types of ideas with that.
We’re working on potentially, our head of strength and conditioning, Tom Morris, is be creative with this, how can we create virtual workouts through Zoom, support our student-athletes from a distance, trying to be creative on that. We’ll continue to do with that with the main goal of keeping everyone connected, keeping them calm, hoping as this passes we can bring everybody together sooner than later.
From a staffing standpoint, it’s also particularly important that we’re keeping everyone very, very connected. We particularly have a feel for our hourly workers, what we do to keep them in different roles, different areas in the department if there’s downtime right now because we want to make certain they have their paychecks, can continue to work.
We have lots of different ideas that we kick around and meet on. I have a meeting at 11:00 following this call that we’ll talk through with our senior staff all the different concepts and ideas.
Fred has participated in some calls with the Big Ten athletic directors. I’m participating in some other calls with ADs around the country. Everyone is in the same boat. There’s lots of ideas you can come up with just listening to what’s going on.
We’re being on the offensive on it, not the defensive, trying to do everything we can to mitigate the situation we’re in.
Q. I know a big point of emphasis with Fred, 24 Sports/1 Team. What does that look like for you moving forward before it becomes official?
SCOTT DOLSON: I think it’s really important, in my presentation to the search committee, that we build on the incredible foundation that Fred put together. That foundation includes the five priorities that he articulated throughout his 11 years. The reality is those priorities were the same priorities that were here when I was a basketball manager. They were built around all the coaches believe that. If you think back to Coach Knight, Yeagley, Coach Mallory, Sam Bell, they all wanted to play by the rules, make certain all their students develop personally, make certain they achieved academically, they wanted to make sure they would excel athletically and we were a great university. That was the bedrock.
When Fred came in, I give him all the credit in the world, we’ve been through a challenging time, we need to reestablish those priorities. The coaches were all gone, we needed some consistency in the department. Fred put that together.
The 24 Sports/1 Team couldn’t be a better creed to make certain people all understand who we are, what we stand for. I hope those are there long after I leave.
I think the challenge for me, the thing that has me the most excited, is to move forward and to make certain we know how we build from those. That’s when I said the priorities I have will be built on those. I talked about the importance of football, men’s basketball, then obviously succeeding in those sports it helps everybody. To achieve the overall comprehensive success we want to in all phases, academically, athletically and personally, the success of men’s basketball and football help provide the resources, we can then invest in the other sports.
I want it all. I want to achieve for all of our sports. Being athletic director can help make things happen. At the same time I think those priorities are a bedrock in all phases and we need to build on those for sure.
Q. Duplicating a question here. I’m curious from a basketball perspective your thoughts. The season ended in a difficult way, but there were a lot of people optimistic with the direction of the program. Most people could agree this was going to be a tournament team. How do you feel about the progress that Archie has made over the last three years and how you view the future of the program going forward?
SCOTT DOLSON: I feel that we’re definitely making the right progress, the right steps in multiple ways. I feel like in building the program, as I mentioned earlier, I think Archie has a great master plan. I like the way he sticks to his plan, makes certain that he has conviction there, is not too high, too low. I feel that coming together.
I talked about the leadership within the team that I think is building. I don’t know if you heard me, but I specifically mentioned the conversation with Joey Brunk that was really kind of special to me, just made me feel really good.
At the same time from my perspective and my role that I have, will serve as athletic director, is providing the resources that we need. We’ve done several things since Archie arrived. When I say ‘resources’ I don’t always mean by that you have to out-spend people. There are times, we’ve done this, investments are really important in staff, facilities. We’ll continue to do that. But also be on the cutting edge and be really aggressive looking forward with what our future needs are going to be, how can I support as athletic director what the needs are to build a top program in the Big Ten.
I’m optimistic and I feel confident in the way Archie and I work together and behind the scenes particularly. The way he works gives me confidence. It’s hard to explain unless you’re there. I feel really, really good about the future.
I said this to the search committee, maybe I shouldn’t say this, this is how I feel. I want to be the athletic director that has the responsibility of getting the basketball program back to where we want it to be. I’m excited about it. I know we have challenges, particularly the environment we’re in, roster management is probably going to be more challenging than ever with the new transfer rules potentially coming, different aspects.
I love that and I love the challenge. I look forward to that. I’m honored to have this opportunity.
Q. Did you say something about a baseball bat that Fred was walking around with?
SCOTT DOLSON: In his office he has a baseball bat that he keeps in the corner. You can tell when it was a tough situation or a challenge that we had. I’ll miss those days. I just can’t tell me how many times we sat in there, were deliberating what the next move should be, that he kind of grabbed the bat, would start swinging a little bit. I’d stay enough distance away that I was safe. We would go back and forth on things. I think the world of Fred as a leader. I learned a lot from him.
He empowered me as a leader, gave me confidence in myself. I felt even when I disagreed with him, I had no problem of challenging him, him challenging me. Had the utmost respect for him.
That’s how I lead as well. I enjoy putting good people on the team, having good people around me that have a lot of talent, then empowering them to debate, to bring up what we need to be doing, to create solutions to our challenges, then execute the plan and move forward.
Again, I’ll miss those days. I know Fred, he and I will be great friends forever. We’re extremely close.
Q. Vince Tyra had a teleconference yesterday at Louisville. He did it from his home. Are you able to come into the office?
SCOTT DOLSON: It’s kind of a skeleton crew in here. But I’ve been in particularly just given the announcement this week and everything, kind of locked in my office. We’ve had a skeleton sort of senior staff. Our CFO has been in quite a bit, locking herself in her office. We certainly keep a safe distance and are real respectful of all the recommendations that are out there, want to be cognizant of that.
On a limited basis we have people around. I like to kind of lock myself in my office and kind of go to work. I anticipate that moving forward. Doing most of our meetings and key decisions via telephone, Skype or Zoom moving forward.
Q. Through this situation, is it a scenario where you and Fred are working together? Are you talking about how long this might last, you and Fred work through the end of the academic year?
SCOTT DOLSON: First of all, we’ve worked very closely. Like everything else, we’ve been seamless in this. Fred works from home. I can’t imagine how much he’s been on his phone. I hope he has a headset, I don’t think he does. We will continue to work very, very closely.
We haven’t really gotten into too much sort of trying to project how long it’s going to go on. But we have talked about sort of our transition moving forward. Nothing is set in stone. But I know his last official day he’s looking at in late August. As I mentioned earlier, my goal is for the department we want him to end his tenure on the highest note possible, that’s a priority.
At the same time I think there’s a chance that I might officially slide into the chair maybe July 1, which is the beginning of our fiscal year, then have the next two months maybe to work closely with Fred in a different capacity but still have that same close relationship.
Again, I just can’t underscore how terrific he’s been throughout the whole search process, throughout my whole tenure in working with him. I anticipate he and I will be a team to the very end and have a great end of his career, for sure.
Again, particularly given the circumstances of what we’re all dealing with right now, thank you so much for calling in. It means a lot. I’m honored to be chosen in this incredible opportunity. It definitely is a dream for me. I take it with the utmost seriousness, look forward to working with all of you moving forward in my new capacity. Be safe and hope all your families are safe, as well. Thank you.
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