One of the things that all politicians master in order to maintain a successful career is the art of doing nothing and making it appear to be everything. New Alabama State University President Quinton Ross, a seasoned legislator in Alabama’s Senate, capped his first week in power with a perfect political move, and one that will likely be a solid foundation for his relationship with board members and key alumni surrounding the institution.
In a span of a few days, Ross essentially fired his athletic director Melvin Hines and his football coach Brian Jenkins. From performance perspectives, both firings were warranted. While ASU was a perennial winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s President’s Cup under Hines as interim and permanent AD, he wasn’t regarded as windmaker in fundraising or securing big sponsorships for the Hornets program.
Jenkins came into ASU with a cloud of controversy, under a disliked former president and underperformed in the win-loss column. A humiliating televised loss against Prairie View A&M University all but sealed the deal along with an 0-5 start to the season.
So there is plenty of reason for Ross to clean house in the athletic department, and reason to do it in his first week as campus CEO. But the biggest of those reasons is that it sends a signal that he is a president of the people. Who those people are specifically is still up for interpretation because it seems that the quick ax in the athletics department is a move that key stakeholders wanted to drop under former president Gwendolyn Boyd.
There are many issues Dr. Ross could’ve lifted for emphasis in his first week; advocacy for state appropriations, building corporate partnerships in the months following the fiasco with Steve Harvey, working to increase enrollment and finding ways to inject ASU into the state’s big bet on the automotive industry.
Nobody knows what the future of automobiles will be. But those tasked with predicting its needs in Alabama agree: They all have to be ready. Executives with all of Alabama’s automotive manufacturers – and one from nearby Georgia – shared a stage Thursday at the 10th annual Southern Automotive Conference in Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
All of those things would’ve earned Dr. Ross and ASU positive attention in week one; he went with the most popular and visible of the school’s points of concern – football. And Hornets faithful will love him even more for it.
Here’s to hoping that next week and in the weeks to follow, other major issues draw the same kind of speed and focus that athletics has earned out of the gate from the new president.