A tall, thin blonde woman walks into the room and men look up. Hey, it happens.
But when a thin blonde woman walked into the room the other day, Bill Curry wasn’t in a restaurant or a nightclub. He was in an administration building at Georgia State, and the old football coach realized he might be looking at his next boss.
“I sat in this room, and here comes this lovely sophisticated lady,” Curry said. “She wasn’t my stereotypical idea of an A.D. I read her resume and it was impressive. But I was skeptical. We’re all victims of our own prejudices. I’m married to a blonde scholar. She’s a great mom, but I don’t think she ought to be an A.D.”
Cheryl Levick must’ve broken the stereotype in a one-hour interview because she won over Curry. Her next challenge will be more difficult: breaking the stereotype of Georgia State.
She is Georgia State’s new athletic director. My guess is that few people even realized Georgia State had an athletic director until Mary McElroy announced that the school was launching a football program and hired Curry. Most thought it a monumental achievement, but the outgoing president, Carl Patton, was so impressed that he fired her.
One of the problems facing Levick — aside from trying to fund-raise at a time when nobody has funds to raise — is getting us to see Georgia State as relevant in athletics.
Basketball teams are easier and cheaper to grow, but the Panthers have never even managed a footprint in that sport. So how can we expect the school to get on our consciousness in Division I football, especially in the shadows of Georgia (from afar) and Tech (from next door)?
Curry believes State’s impact can be “huge.” It’s what you would expect him to say. He just recruited his first class for a team that won’t begin play until the fall of 2010.
“I don’t think anybody should expect some magical creation right away,” he said. “We are not an NFL franchise. We don’t have $500 million to build a stadium and lavish facilities. We’re an educational institution and things are built much more slowly.”
It’s a worthy goal. If it works, and the area suddenly has a third player in major college sports, it would be a significant boost for the market. Mark Becker, the new GSU president, has passed through Penn State, Michigan and Florida during his academic and administrative career, so he understands the potential impact of athletics. He talks about how George Mason’s basketball program raised that school’s visibility. But Levick is thinking even bigger.
“I don’t know if there’s a parallel [situation] for us, but we’ll probably take a look at several schools,” she said. “I want to look at Cincinnati, Houston, Pitt. We need to look at what they’ve done and where they’re going. But we will shape our own self — and we will be Atlanta’s college football team.”
Lovely. Early smack talk.
She won the press conference after she won over Curry. He is accustomed to meeting with aspiring coaches and administrators. He admits sometimes, “I want to run out of the room.”
But he said of Levick: “She has a business plan. She talked about needing this many dollars and this many moving parts. She loves fundraising. She understands football and the relationship it has with other sports. She wants to meet with every recruit for every sport. Do you know what that will do for the moms?”
Probably win them over, too.