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Spetman Oversees Tumultuous Times

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

TALLAHASSEE – First-year Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman appears to be settling into his new position. In fact, his may be the most settled office within the school's entire athletic department.

Over the past three months, Spetman has jettisoned a volleyball coach and hired a replacement, is in the process of replacing legendary softball coach JoAnne Graf following her surprising June retirement, and has handed out an unprecedented, three-year contract to cross country/track coach Bob Braman following the Seminoles' third consecutive NCAA men's outdoor national title.

It's a time of transition in Tallahassee under the direction of university president T.K. Wetherell and Spetman, Wetherell's hand-picked successor to ousted AD Dave Hart.

Since his Feb. 4 hiring, Spetman has had his hands full building an administrative team. He promoted Varsity Club president Monk Bonasorte to senior associate AD, named Bill Shults as director of academic support, and hired Kellie Elliott from San Jose State to be deputy AD/senior women's administrator.

Spetman promoted Brian Battle to associate AD for compliance and recently added Brandi Stuart to the senior staff to oversee student welfare and diversity/equity issues.

That's an entirely new senior administrative team, beyond long-time facilities administrators Bernie Waxman and Chuck Morris.

While building a senior staff was at the top of Spetman's to-do list, his decision to drop the hammer on volleyball coach Todd Kress in early April caught many by surprise. While Kress had failed to lead the Seminoles to an NCAA berth in each of the last four seasons, Spetman said he was going to take his time evaluating coaches and did not foresee making immediate changes.

He made that comment a week after taking the job.

On June 10, Chris Poole was hired from Arkansas to replace Kress. Poole built a stunning 316-161 record in 14 seasons with nine NCAA appearances leading the Razorbacks, a program he built from the ground up.

On June 15, Graf tendered her resignation. With 1,437 victories, she has won more college softball games than any coach in history during her 30-year tenure at FSU.

Replacing Graf, whose name has graced the softball complex field since 2005, is now Spetman's top priority, yet he nearly had another void to fill.

As Braman was preparing the FSU men's track and field team for its third consecutive NCAA championship, Arkansas came calling on him as a potential replacement for its legendary coach, John McDonnell.

While Braman has declined to mention the Razorbacks by name, sources close to the coach indicated that the national powerhouse extended him a long-term contract offer that would have nearly doubled his modest FSU salary.

Wetherell and Spetman countered with a three-year deal – the first multi-year contract extended to an FSU head coach outside of football and basketball – with a modest raise and inducements that should help Braman keep his staff in place as well.

The multi-year deal could be Spetman's first significant step to establishing his identity as FSU's AD.

Hart was diametrically opposed to multi-year pacts for those heading up non-revenue sports, a stance that cost him women's soccer coach Patrick Baker four years ago. Baker took a job with Georgia, but his successor, Mark Krikorian, could be next in line for a long-term deal, after a pair of trips to the College Cup the last two years.

Now that the die has been cast, what about FSU baseball coach Mike Martin? Though he has failed to win a College World Series title in 13 trips to Omaha, he ranks third all-time in victories, a mark he has made in 29 consecutive seasons under renewable, one-year contracts.

Martin likely is past the zenith of his career, but after getting the Seminoles back to the CWS for the first time since 2000, it's clear that he still knows how to put out a winner.

Whether Spetman sees it that way remains to be seen, but it certainly must be a topic of conversation on campus following the Braman deal.

HART'S EFFORTS YIELD HONOR

One of Hart's primary objectives when he took over the FSU athletic program in 1995 was to build a comprehensive athletic program.

Despite his December departure, he deserves a great deal of credit for the program's second consecutive 15th-place finish in the United States Sports Academy Directors Cup standings.

On the strength of a stellar spring that saw all eight of its sports reach NCAA postseason play, FSU matched its school-best finish (set last year) in the standings.

The Seminoles piled up a school-best 971.50 points, finishing just seven points behind 14th-place North Carolina, the top ACC program. A year ago, the Seminoles accumulated 924.25 points.

Hart's efforts did not go unnoticed. In June, he was presented the Corbett Award by the National Collegiate Athletic Directors Association for his efforts. It's the highest honor bestowed by the NCADA on a member.

RECRUITS' ACADEMICS LOOK SOLID

Academic attrition has cost the FSU football program some talented players in recent recruiting classes, but by most indicators, coach Bobby Bowden's 2008 group appears to be in pretty good shape.

All but two of the 26 newcomers – junior college tailback Tavares Pressley and freshman athlete A.J. Alexander – arrived on campus during the final week of June for the summer enrichment program.

Both Pressley and Alexander have to fulfill more academic requirements before enrolling at FSU, though both have vowed to be in school for the start of August practice.

That relatively good news also was echoed in the basketball office, where coach Leonard Hamilton is counting heavily on newcomers this season.

Big men Chris Singleton and Xavier Gibson, swingman Deividas Dulkys and point guards Luke Loucks and Pierre Jordan all cleared initial eligibility requirements. Junior college transfer guard Derwin Kitchen is expected to join them after completing his final summer semester at Iowa Western.

There will be ample opportunity for all six to compete for playing time this season, after the Seminoles graduated Jason Rich, Ralph Mims and Isaiah Swann and also lost forward Julian Vaughn, who transferred to Georgetown.