Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Board

TigerBlog got an email yesterday welcoming him to the CAANJ board. A few days ago, TB had no idea what CAANJ was.

Last week, TB was at the CAANJ annual meeting, which was followed by an awards ceremony at which Princeton received the CAANJ Cup for having the top athletic program in Division I/II in the state of New Jersey.

CAANJ, by the way, stands for College Athletic Administrators of New Jersey. There are 48 member institutions, with four athletic conferences and then a fairly even distribution between the three other classifications - DI/II schools, DIII schools and junior colleges.

The day started when the outgoing CAANJ president turned over the top spot to the incoming one, Alexis Schug from New Jersey Institute of Technology. The old president? None other than Cindy Cohen, the longtime Princeton softball coach who won 560 games and 12 Ivy League titles while taking the Tigers to the Women's College World Series twice. Cohen is now an administrator at William Paterson College.

The meeting featured an energetic and well-informed speaker from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a Division III conference, who spoke about new media and its impact on college athletics.

And then it was time for the awards ceremony, which featured a male and female athlete of the year from each of the three classifications, as well as the top programs in each. The Division I winners of the athlete of the year awards were a baseball player from Seton Hall and a women's volleyball player from NJIT; the other top programs were The College of New Jersey in Division III and Gloucester County Colege for the jucos.

At the very end, Schug asked if anyone would volunteer to be the coordinator of the awards for the organization. Once assured that this wasn't too taxing of a position, TB volunteered, and so now he's on the board.

It was, to say the least, a very interesting experience to attend the meeting.

Back when the Ivy League had sports information meetings - and most of the decisions centered around the media - TB always thought it was odd for eight schools who had little in common geographically to be making decisions that were uniform for media purposes. For purposes of competition and admissions and financial aid and everything else? Yes, that makes complete sense.

But for the media? How could the group make decisions that treated rural schools like Dartmouth and Cornell the same as urban schools like Columbia, Penn and Harvard? These eight offices were connected by being in the same league, but that had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations and logistics of their dealings with their respective local medias.

TB had a similar feeling at the CAANJ meeting.

Yes, all of these schools were in New Jersey. At the same time, the issues that are faced by the community colleges are so different than the ones faced by, say, a BCS school like Rutgers.

TB sat at table during the luncheon with people from Brookdale Community College (where TB's eighth-grade graduation was held, back when he was the fourth-shortest boy in the class) and Mercer County College. One of the people from Mercer was John Simone, whom TB knows dating back to his days coaching at Notre Dame High School.

There was also a woman from Mercer who ran at TCNJ when current Princeton men's cross country coach Steve Dolan was the coach for the Lions and a woman from Brookdale who went to high school with Lorin Maurer, who was a Princeton Friends' Group fundraiser until her tragic death in a plane crash nearly two years ago. Lorin and the woman from Brookdale were from outside Reading, which of course sparked a conversation with Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters, who grew up in Reading.

The room was filled with people who do a great deal for New Jersey's college athletes, the overwhelming majority of whom do not compete at the Division I level.

These administrators give their athletes every opportunity they can to be successful, and they do so with far fewer resources than TB is used to dealing with here at Princeton.

The speaker from the MIAC spoke about things that TB takes for granted as an everyday part of doing business in athletic communications - thinks like livestats and video streaming and flip cams and content management systems and all of it.

At the same time, many of the people in the room had no experience in dealing with these. Why? They don't have the resources - financial and staffing - to so so.

By the time he left, TB had a better understanding of what a lot of people in college athletics go through each day in their attempts to put quality teams on the field. He also had renewed respect for the challenges that many of these dedicated people face.

He was also determined not to take for granted what he has at Princeton and just how lucky he is to be working at a place like this.

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