Dan Kukla

Miami University’s athletic program is often referred to as the Cradle of Coaches, as many former coaches and staff members of the university have gone on to excel at other positions around the nation, allowing Miami to pride itself on breeding success.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon acts as a proverbial double-edged sword – every staff member that thrives somewhere else is a staff member who is lost and must be replaced.

This dilemma has become increasingly prevalent over the past few months as a handful of Miami’s Athletic Department staff have left for new opportunities.

Some famous Miami alumni that have started out at Miami before making a name for themselves in the athletic community have included the late Bo Schembechler, who coached football at Miami for six seasons before going to coach at Michigan. Randy Walker, who passed away fall 2007 and was honored at this year’s first football game, coached at Miami for nine years after playing here for three years during college.

Among those that have left Miami this past year were Associate Director of Athletics Mike Watson, who left Feb. 16; Assistant Athletic Media Directors Jess Bechard, who left Feb. 28, and Vince Frieden, who left Dec. 1; and Assistant Athletic Director for External Affairs/Athletic Media Relations Director Mike Harris, who left for the University of Cincinnati March 30.

Josh Fenton, who was recently promoted to assistant athletic director, said that the Athletic Department not only accepts this occurrence, but embraces it as well.

“Those four people left because of better opportunities,” Fenton said. “We’re not known as the cradle for nothing. When someone has a better opportunity we want to promote them and make sure that they have the resources to approach those opportunities and really go after them.”

Fenton added that finding new employees on short notice to replace such high quality people can be a daunting task, as such workers are in short supply and large demand.

However, because Miami has established a reputation for excellence, the difficulty is not finding quality replacements but choosing from them, Athletic Director Brad Bates noted.

Bates feels quite confident that despite the losses in personnel, the Athletic Department will still be able to recover quickly and maintain a high level of performance.

“The same strengths that are appealing to students are appealing to potential staff, administrators and coaches,” Bates said. “This university is a great institution and people want to be affiliated with it. The challenge is to make sure we hire the absolute perfect person.”

Although it seems somewhat ambiguous, the Athletic Department has a clear image of what that “absolute perfect person” looks like for them.

According to Bates, Miami looks for people who are intelligent, passionate about their job and have an exceptional work ethic. This profile was personified in the promotion of Josh Fenton.

While both Athletic Director Brad Bates and Fenton asserted that Fenton’s promotion April 9 was not in response to the recent departures from the department.

Bates said that he does serve as a model for the type of people that Miami is looking to hire. A passionate employee with drive and work ethic.

Fenton is precisely the kind of person that the department wants to embody, according to Bates.

“(Fenton’s) promotion is unrelated to any of the attritions that we’ve had,” Bates said. “He’s just been a rising star, works extremely hard and is just a quality person. Certainly he epitomizes the type of people we need to surround our students and our staff with.”

As for the other openings left by Watson, Frieden and Bechard, the department has still not filled these spots, as the search for their replacements continues.

Bates said that the type of people the department is looking for are ones who are devoted to student development.

“At the forefront of our values is a deeply rooted commitment to student development,” Bates said. “That is going to be an over-arching theme with any candidate that we are going to seriously consider.”

Fenton echoed Bates, saying the Athletic Department is at Miami to serve the students and continue the Miami athletic tradition.

“The strength of Miami’s Athletic Department first and foremost is our people,” Fenton said. “We have great people here that want to do great things.”