The long-awaited, and somewhat highly anticipated OVC Basketball Summit in Nashville is over. What was expected to be an hour-long session with athletic directors, school presidents, head basketball coaches, and Ohio Valley Conference leaders stretched into more like four hours, which to those of us not spending hours sitting outside the door, seemed like a positive.
But the coaches comments to WPSD Local 6 seem to make one thing clear: nothing that was said in that meeting changed anyone’s mind, and no action or recommendations appeared to have been agreed upon. According to the commissioner’s comments, that was never the point to begin with — it was more an informational session for the school presidents. This morning, Jeff Bidwell and I spent the greater part of 30 minutes on his radio show discussing the summit, (Plug: Listen to it here. I’m in hour 2) during which I kept circling back to one key point:
What are the OVC’s goals as it relates to men’s basketball?
Not to go all middle-school on you, but a good goal has at least three parts: what you want to do, when you want to do it by, and a way to test if it’s actually been accomplished. “Getting better,” is a poor goal, because it’s not only impossible to test — my definition of better probably is wildly different than yours, but by when? How much better?
A goal isn’t a mission statement — an often purposely vague ideal. The OVC has one of those. It’s something specific, something that can help create the actions that some schools are looking for. I feel like, more than anything else, that’s what’s the conference is missing — and not just for basketball. Goals should be set for football, baseball — every sport the conference covers.
This way, when you put the 24 AD’s and school president’s in a room — there’s a unified direction they can all work towards.
There’s a second issue I didn’t mention this morning, and it’s because I haven’t really thought about it until now. The way this should be viewed isn’t that there’s a “problem” that needs fixing.
It’s about what’s next. Where are we going?
Regardless where you think the OVC is as a conference, they should always be working to improve, to become better. There’s never a point where the conference — or any conference, should look at what they’ve created and say, ‘you know what, we’re good. There’s nothing we can improve on.’
This may sound like semantics, but when you call something a problem, people get defensive. People that might even agree with you get defensive, because with problems, there’s blame. If something’s wrong, the perception is that someone or something has to be at fault. And when people become defensive, something that’s human nature, almost all logic goes out the window.
This discussion, which really heated up in March when Murray State was left out of the NCAA Tournament, has been quite negative from the word ‘go.’ I don’t know if that’s the case internally, but it’s been the case outside, including here. Instead of talking about the Racers’ amazing season, and asking ‘where can we go from here,’ we’ve been casting blame on other schools, the conference, and the NCAA.
It’s about what’s next. Where are we going?
…and again, in case you just missed me saying it, I’ve been as guilty of it as anyone.
This all circles around to the goal-setting. If the OVC doesn’t know where it’s going, specifically what they want to achieve, it’s far too easy to see “problems.” You have 12 schools, 24 basketball programs, that all are pushing and pulling in a different direction: there’s almost always going to be a party left out.
Maybe the OVC has this. Maybe somewhere there is a list of goals and deadlines and for whatever reason, they’re keeping it internal. Maybe they’re meeting their goals, and we’re just wanting too much too quickly.
But based on what we’ve learned in the past 24 hours, it doesn’t appear so. It appears we’ve got 12 schools, pulling in 12 different directions. I truly believe the OVC and it’s member schools want to get better, but it seems we’re skipping to step 3 when we’ve yet to finish step 1.
No real change is going to happen, and no real improvement, until there is some sort of an agreement on where the OVC is going, and what they want to accomplish.
That’s what these meetings should be about.
Once that’s been done, then we can talk about how to make that happen.