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Jamie Pollard: A Lesson in Leadership

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Pollard once again sets a high standard for leadership in athletics administration.

NCAA Football: Northern Iowa at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

As Cyclone fans, we have been blessed to have Jamie Pollard as our athletic director since 2005. Pollard has a few minor shortcomings, but in his tenure, he’s hired Fred Hoiberg, Matt Campbell and turned Jack Trice Stadium into one of the best complexes in the Big 12. Pollard has been well-appreciated by Cyclones for basically his entire tenure as athletic director, but the rest of the country may be finally catching on.

On Wednesday, April 1, Pollard announced every coach in the athletic department had elected to a sort of collective sacrifice, taking temporary pay cuts to help cover budget shortfalls created by the pandemic to the tune of roughly $4 million. Incentives and bonuses for coaches are also suspended for one year. Iowa State’s department was the first college to make a decision like this, and many may soon follow.

I could dig into the logistics and finances, but that’s been covered by several newspapers already, so I would direct you that way if you are looking into that. I’m more interested in looking at what this means for Iowa State and Jamie Pollard.

First, I think that this was the right decision for Iowa State. The economics behind this aren’t rocket science. Every school is losing revenue, which brings a decision; cut pay or cut sports. As we all know, this university is already lacking a few sports due in part to Title IX restrictions on scholarship distribution, so that was never an option. We already saw one university go the other direction when Old Dominion elected to cut its wrestling program.

As we’ve seen on a number of occasions through the early stages of this pandemic, dominoes tend to fall quickly. One person postpones or cancels, and the next immediately follows. Given that Iowa State is far from alone in facing budget issues, and many smaller schools in Group of Five or smaller conferences are facing even greater challenges.

What Jamie Pollard did yesterday was create a model for every other athletic department in the country. Foster collective responsibility and, in a way, charity, and you can create a department more resilient to fluctuations in revenue. Fortunately, Pollard has created that culture in the coaching staffs under him, and their collective buy-in has saved a number of people from potential layoffs, and even some sports from their inevitable demise.

The only other option that will be available to schools with huge budgets like Notre Dame, Texas, and Alabama would be to cut into a backup fund. That could work for the time being, but no one knows how long this pandemic will last. If this goes on longer than expected, and emergency funds get burnt, a lot of programs will be in long-term trouble.

One benefit that Pollard has is the selflessness of his staff, Steve Prohm and Matt Campbell agreed to the loss of incentives which is a massive help for Pollard. Coaches across the nation will need to make similar selfless decisions, or else their own schools may struggle.

Jamie Pollard made the smart decision first because he could. He has the respect of his staff and his school, and that’s not by accident. The rest of the nation is about to see how awesome Jamie Pollard is.