When Rutgers needed to hire a replacement for Tim Pernetti as the university’s athletic director, the school did what most schools in that situation do: they hired a search firm to help them parse through candidates.
The end result?
Rutgers hired Julie Hermann away from Louisville, a move that was lauded until the Newark Star-Ledger dug up some embarrassing details from Hermann’s past. Namely, she was fired as the head volleyball coach at Tennessee in 1996 for actions that were all too similar to those of Mike Rice. Rice was fired in April when a video of him abusing his players reached Outside The Lines. Pernetti lost his job because he failed to fire Rice last December when he first became aware of the video.
The entire soap opera brought to light the topic of search firms and how they operate. If Rutgers is paying $70,000 for Parker Executive Search to help them find an AD, isn’t checking for skeletons in the closet part of the job?
On Friday, Dana O’Neil of ESPN.com published an interesting look into Parker Executive Search and how search firms operate, which is really worth your time. I found this passage most interesting, however:
The perception exists among the coaching fraternity that if you don’t know Parker and other top search firms, or vice versa, you won’t get a job because of the wide breadth of their influence.
Some go to great lengths to stay in their good graces.
“When I was at Murray State, I did an interview for a job I didn’t want because a high-powered search firm wanted me to,” Cronin said. “The school wanted to interview me and I wasn’t interested in the job, but I wanted to endear myself to the search firm. I thought it was better than pissing them off.”
Others take far less complicated routes, but with the same goal: to stay in good favor.
Wilder said that, prior to Peach Jam, more than a few coaches stopped by the firm’s Atlanta office to say hello en route to North Augusta, and its Final Four party has become a must-attend event for coaches trying to get noticed.
“It’s one of the funniest things in the world. Everybody is practically in line to meet them and kiss the rings,” the agent said. “You’ve got the ADs they’ve hired or the associate ADs that want their help. There are maybe a handful of head coaches and a bunch of assistants trying to get face time. Then you’ve got six of me who are making sure their guys get seen but also protecting them to make sure other agents aren’t trying to talk to them. It’s unreal.”
Right or wrong, the perception for just about everyone around these search firms is that it’s not much more than an old boy’s network.
And it doesn’t look like that will change, regardless of what their higher-ups are telling ESPN.com.