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Panelists' input will set guide for coaching search

November 15, 2002

Lansing Mayor David Hollister is an MSU alumnus and a football season-ticket holder. And now he's living a fan's dream come true.

Hollister has the "honor" of sitting in with MSU Athletics Director Ron Mason, 19 other football fans and one professional hiring consultant to brainstorm a list of qualities and characteristics the perfect Spartan head football coach would have.

The panelists don't get to hire the coach to replace Bobby Williams. Or even put their favorite candidates on a list.

They get to do what any fan would love - toss their input directly into the ear of the decision-maker.

It's a process Hollister calls brilliant.

"This is America," he said. "Everyone has an opinion. But from everyone I've talked to, not one person has a negative thing to say about this. This is an appropriate, strategic decision on Ron Mason's part.

"It will be interesting to evaluate when we're done how the process has worked. If it works, and I have every confidence it will, I think it will set the stage for other athletics directors. I think it could be a historic move."

The two discussions will result in a set of guidelines to use in the search. The panelists met for two hours this week and will meet one final time Tuesday. Then Mason will prepare the guidelines and present them to the Board of Trustees and President M. Peter McPherson.

Mason has never used such a process before, but so far, he's impressed with the panel.

"I was ecstatic at what took place at the meeting," Mason said. "It was very invigorating."

It's not surprising when you look who's on the panel:

Two mayors, Hollister and East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows. MSU football greats such as Hank Bullough, Charles "Mad Dog" Thornhill, Mike Smith and junior left guard Joe Tate; Ken Hall, an MSU police officer; Carl Taylor, an expert in family and child ecology and violence; Sharon Banks, from the Lansing School District; Student-athlete advisory council member Ann Marie Kersten and director Mike Kasavana.

With all that variety, it seems like coming to a consensus would be difficult. But it's not, Mason said.

"We did a survey and afterward, everyone spoke," Mason said. "Now we'll come up with some ideas to discuss further. But so far it seems that there is some agreement about some of the things we all find important."

No one on the panel wants to get too specific about what's been said. But Hollister said at least one characteristic on the list is longevity.

MSU has had eight head coaches in the last 30 years, and Hollister pointed out that the schools with the least amount of turnover - Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State - are the conference powerhouses.

On the other hand, perfection isn't a quality on the list. Mason said the group has been realistic and while it is dreaming up all the best qualities, it knows one person can't embody them all.

Fans are also playing a role in the decision-making process.

"I believe the average, everyday fan has a huge input into the football team," Meadows said. "They make their feelings known in the stands by showing up and cheering. It's tremendously helpful to gauge the interest in the football team."

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