Mark Hollis was honored this week as the best athletic director in the country.
But the only thing that award did was announce to the nation what many around Michigan State already knew – its hard to find Hollis’ equal. It’s easy to point to all of the reasons – his out-of-the-box thinking with events like the Carrier Classic and the consistent success of many of Michigan State’s programs chief among them.
But when Hollis addressed the media this week, covering all sorts of topics surrounding Michigan State sports, there was one item that displayed how valuable he is in East Lansing. It has little to do with awards or championships or grand events. No, it’s about the relationships he has built at Michigan State.
Early this year, I did a story on what others thought of Hollis. I talked with Tom Izzo, Suzy Merchant, Tom Anastos, Mark Dantonio … the who’s-who of coaches at Michigan State. I did not talk to softball coach Jacquie Joseph.
Softball doesn’t get a lot of attention at Michigan State, unless, that is, the team goes 23 conference games – an entire season – without winning a game. Well, that’s just what happened to the Spartans this season.
But instead of doing the easy thing – firing Joseph – Hollis once again proved why he is so valued and loved at Michigan State. He chose to put faith in people, in Spartans.
This is how he put it:
“I think you have to go through a process of what goes in and what comes out. Have I done everything as an athletic director to make that program as successful as possible? Have other people in this department done everything possible to make that program as successful as possible? I don’t give up on people. Jacquie Joseph is a value to this athletic department. She is embraced by a lot of people and I’m going to do everything within my power to see that she has an opportunity to be successful. We’ve had some very frank conversations and she feels the same way I do. So, we’re going to give it a go and see if we can pull some magic out. Softball is extremely important to me. My hometown is, of course, World Series champions. “It’s easy to fire a coach. It’s not easy to retain a coach that is 0-23, but that puts it on my shoulders to help her and guide her and get folks in the department to support that program like they haven’t in the past. We’ve talked at the highest level on the program but she has my support right now and I think we’ve made a good decision going into next year and we’ll see where the thing can go. She’s loved by a lot of coaches here and she provides a lot of support. That support is going to be coming back to her in the off-season.”
Who wouldn’t want to work for a guy like that?
Hollis’ decision guarantees nothing. If the softball team continues to underachieve, he will make a move. But his coaches understand he will put everything he has into making it work before that happens.
It’s why he is so valuable to Michigan State and it speaks more to why he was named the best AD in the nation than any championship might.