What’s the best way to evaluate talent when looking to fill an important role within your department? Likewise, how do administrators properly evaluate new career opportunities? AthleticDirectorU attempts to answer these questions with its executive hiring process series. Cleveland State Director of Athletics, Scott Garrett, and Deputy AD, Tyler Jones, participated in a double-blind round table discussion to show how each navigated the process that eventually led to their professional marriage at CSU.
Scott Garrett: What were the qualifications/skills you were looking for in your Deputy role? Why did you prioritize it?
On paper I was seeking someone with high-level college athletics marketing experience, preferably across multiple units. They needed to have a track-record of creativity in fan engagement and revenue generation results. Ideally, they would have experience at a variety of levels (i.e. Power 5, Group of 5, I-AAA). From a personality perspective I wanted someone with tremendous character and values around our mission of providing a transformational student-athlete experience, who could without question develop a strategy and then deliver day-to-day progress with our external units.
It might seem counter-intuitive to hire an external person first, when that is really my wheelhouse. That being said, in my first few weeks, I was spending so much time internally that our external staff was eager for additional leadership and direction when I could only spend a couple of hours a week in the weeds of brainstorming revenue-generating ideas, in particular our men’s basketball marketing plan. Generating resources through our annual fund, through men’s basketball attendance, through corporate sponsorship and through team-specific restricted fundraising activities is going to be immensely important to delivering what our coaches and staff have told me they need to compete for conference championships.
Tyler Jones: What were you looking for in your next career opportunity? Why Cleveland State?
Candidly, I wasn’t actively looking for a new career opportunity. However, at this stage in my career, I was ready for a different and unique challenge. When assessing new opportunities, I believe it’s important to acquire diverse work experiences. I have had the privilege to work in the Mid-American Conference, Southeastern Conference, and the Big Ten Conference. Each stop contributed to my professional accomplishments and was extremely valuable to my development. I aspire to become an Intercollegiate Athletics Director and therefore each role I’ve taken in my career was done so with the intent of helping me reach that goal.
In terms of Cleveland State, the opportunity to stay in the great state of Ohio was very attractive to me and my family. I have developed and cultivated tremendous relationships in this region that will afford me an opportunity to make a swift and positive impact at the university. Secondly, the candid conversation with President Sands was an absolute game-changer for me. The amount of support, energy, and enthusiasm he exudes is remarkable. He understands how important athletics is to the fabric of the university and his support was unwavering! Lastly, I want to help build something special. This opportunity affords me a unique opportunity to architect transformational change not only for Cleveland State University but for the community of Northeast Ohio.
Scott: What is it that attracted you to Tyler?
It’s funny, for a couple of NACDA lobby all-stars, I think that Tyler and I maybe have met in passing one time. When we had our first visit to talk about the job neither of us could recall if we had interacted before. After spending a couple of days here in Cleveland following my press conference, and determining that I wanted to hire for this position first, I began to call and email around looking for recommendations and every single person said, “If you could get Tyler Jones, you’d be set… but, I don’t think you can get him.”
Tyler: What attracted you to working with Scott?
Scott’s relentlessness, candor, confidence, and authenticity were off the charts. He was confident in his vision for the program and equally confident in my ability to assist him in building a culture sustained of excellence. One interesting tidbit, I watched his introductory press conference roughly five times and jotted down a few power statements. Throughout the recruiting process, he weaved in those same power statements and cornerstones on a number of occasions. That was important to me because it affirmed that his core values are strong and rooted regardless of the audience.
Scott: Were there things that Tyler did or said during the interview and/or courting process that impressed you?
I called Tyler while driving from Manhattan, KS to Cleveland, OH. I think he was surprised at first. I shared with him my vision for the program and what I thought the needs might be. I told him that I would have a position, but that the details were fuzzy. Tyler was driving in the car with his wife Ashley and said that he would need a couple of days to think about whether he was interested. I told him it would be an open application process, that I had some other candidates that we would also encourage to be in the pool and that he would have to win the job.
A couple of weeks after I arrived in Cleveland Tyler and I sat down for an informal lunch to talk about my assessment of the department and what the role looked like – it had been posted by that point and we had very strong interest. Tyler crushed the official phone interview with me, crushed the committee phone interview with department and campus stakeholders, and crushed the on-campus visit which included dinner with his wife, me, and my wife Kristy, a full day with our staff and a quick recruiting session with our President. I had multiple phone calls and stops by my office throughout the day saying, “We’ve got to have him – don’t screw it up!”.
Tyler: Were there things that Scott said during the interview and/or courting process that impressed you?
There were a few things during the process that resonated with me and affirmed why this was an absolutely fantastic opportunity for me and my family.
First and foremost, Scott was absolutely clear on the goals and objectives that we would need to complete in efforts to move this department forward. As a leader, it is paramount to establish a clear vision and he impressed me on how strategic and intentional he was in developing those cornerstones. In addition, he was completely transparent about the work that will need to be done here at CSU. Similar to recruiting prospective student-athletes, the elite recruiters are those who are honest and transparent about the situation that prospective student-athletes will experience at their perspective institutions.
Lastly, the elite recruiters do a fantastic job articulating how that particular student-athletes skill set will help make a meaningful impact on their programs. Scott exuded those same elite qualities and assured me my skillset will would assist him in moving our department forward in his vision!
Scott: What problems do you think Tyler can help you solve at Cleveland State?
We don’t use the word problems at CSU. Tyler is going to take advantage of so many opportunities that exist here. He’s been consulting with me already on some staffing, on our revenue strategies, etc. He will be able to teach a lot of our staff how to enhance their skills at fan engagement (we have to continue evolving in digital media story-telling), he will be able to take our marketing plan to the next level, he will bring value as a former student-athlete to help us assess their experience vs. our peer institutions. What won’t he be able to help with … we’ll have to really think strategically about how to prioritize his time and balance what I’ll be spending time on.
Tyler: What problems do you think you can help Scott solve at Cleveland State?
At Ohio State, I have been fortunate to work with and observe a number of Deputy ADs. Mainly I studied how each Deputy AD interacted with Gene. From how those deputies shared information with Gene Smith, to how those deputies challenged him to think differently. It is a delicate balance and a feeling process. How I believe I can assist Scott is to truly unlock him and provide him a longer runway to tackle pressing matters and ensure him the day to day operations are managed in his likeness. I hope to assist him in building a culture of sustained excellence and a program that Northeast Ohio can be proud to support!