Dear Dr. Murphy,
Let me begin this letter by congratulating you on being named Nicholls State University’s new president. Nicholls is a fine place full of fine people. My colleagues and I would like to wish you the absolute best of luck as you embark on your new journey as the leader of our local institution.
Now let’s get to business, shall we? As the head of a university, you will have countless responsibilities that will come through your desk on a day-to-day basis.
Obviously, I understand that the most important duties that you will have are related to academics. Nicholls is a learning center where young students spend four years polishing themselves as people before embarking on their adult journeys into the real world.
And while managing and blooming the school’s programs and offerings should be paramount in your attention span, I write today to humbly ask you to not forget the Colonels’ athletics during your tenure as Nicholls’ president.
As the sports editor of a local newspaper, I spend a lot of time around your athletic department. Through that time, I have developed a very good working relationship with Nicholls’ coaches, student athletes, boosters and fans.
What a tough, resilient bunch of people.
In today’s tough economic climate, surely you are aware that money is tight within the framework of the Louisiana educational system. Because of that, loose pennies are hard to come by. And while most attention is rightfully given to the struggles inside of the classroom, I am here to tell you that sports have taken a serious hit, too.
But even through the struggle, the school you are taking over has persevered and has fielded successful teams across its playing fields.
Currently Nicholls’ athletic department is in as good a shape as it has been throughout my almost four years with this newspaper.
In that time, I have seen a lot of coaches come and go, but all-in-all, I think this is as fit as the department has been in recent years.
In football, your head coach Charlie Stubbs has completely rebuilt Nicholls’ reputation. When Stubbs took over the team, Nicholls was in the dumps academically and were in the penalty stage of the NCAA-mandated APR ratings.
Since taking the helm a few years ago, Stubbs has greatly cleaned up the program and has taken the Colonels from APR purgatory to APR glory.
Nicholls has not has much on-field success under Stubbs’ tutelage, but even that has started to evolve this year. The Colonels defeated Western Michigan early in the season and look like a team that can win a handful of Southland Conference games.
In basketball, your athletics department has a lot to be proud of. For a decade, men’s basketball coach J.P. Piper has shaped the Colonels into a program that routinely reaches the Southland Conference Tournament. Under his watch, the Colonels have also recruited elite talent and have sent a handful of players into the professional ranks.
On the women’s side, coach DoBee Plaisance has had the Midas touch and has turned everything she’s touched into gold. Plaisance took over a program that would annually win just one or two games a season – a team that was maybe the worst in all of women’s college basketball.
But in the 2012-13 season, Nicholls won 19 games and was a pretty high seed in the Southland Conference Tournament.
Football and basketball are the “major” sports within an institution, so that is why I stuck to talking about those programs in such detail.
But similar stories of triumph are happening all across the athletic department. Baseball is doing well and has a promising future. Tennis is as good as it has been in years. Soccer is currently off to its best start in school history.
It just goes on and on and on.
And it’s all impressive because when one crunches the numbers, it’s easy to see that Nicholls has a huge competitive disadvantage compared to the other Southland schools.
The Colonels have one of the lowest enrollment figures of any university in the Southland Conference. Prior to the addition of new programs like Oral Roberts and Houston Baptist, the Colonels had the lowest student population.
Thibodaux also has the smallest population of any Southland Conference city – by a wide margin in a league that includes Tulsa, Houston and San Antonio.
And with those factors combined with a skinny budget, Nicholls just doesn’t have the same quality of facilities as its competitors. They also don’t have the budget to hire a hefty slew of coaches.
Sure, Stubbs, Piper and Plaisance are all fine minds and are among the best in the conference. But for the past few seasons, Plaisance has operated with one main assistant coach.
At LSU and other major universities, head coaches have three, four or maybe even five coaches at their disposal.
So while I understand that your job is challenging and athletics are just a small piece of your pie, I just wanted to write a letter urging you to keep a close eye on those folks throughout your tenure.
These people do more with less and deserve to be applauded for their efforts.
Athletics may be deemed unimportant by some, but there is definite value in owning successful programs because they generate money, instill pride and serve as great public relations tools to grow your brand.
For those reasons, it is my sincerest wish that you throw those folks in Barker Hall and Stopher Gymnasium a bone whenever you get a chance in the coming years.
They deserve it – in a big way.
All the best,