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Nicholls State University is in need of a full-time athletic director after the resignation of long-time administrator Rob Bernardi.

The school has already begun the process of circling the wagons to secure the athletic department’s future.

Just days after Bernardi walked out the door, Nicholls made women’s basketball coach DoBee Plaisance the Interim AD. She’s since taken charge of the university’s athletic affairs as we roll toward the beginning of the 2016-17 athletic year.

While pegging Plaisance for the interim, Nicholls also started collecting applications for folks interested in the full-time position, touting in a news release that they’d conduct a “nation-wide search” to find Bernardi’s successor.

Conducting a search around the country is wise, because one never can tell what brilliant mind may be out there waiting for an opportunity to call a place like Nicholls home.

But assuming there’s no prodigy floating around waiting for his/her phone to ring, there’s really no need for Nicholls to consider anyone from outside its present athletic structure.

The Colonels have two people in their building right now – both of whom are more than capable of leading Nicholls athletics into bigger, brighter futures.

Those people are Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs Brandon Ruttley and Plaisance, who doubled as Nicholls’ Senior Woman Administrator before becoming the Interim AD.

Either Ruttley or Plaisance would be wonderful hires, assuming, of course, that they’d be interested in the full-time gig.

Each has specific skills that would allow them to be successful in the position. They both have the experience and connections needed to lead a Division I athletic department into the future.

Let’s start with Ruttley.

Anyone who covers or follows Nicholls athletics knows Ruttley because it’s simply impossible not to. The guy loves Nicholls State University more than any other person I’ve ever encountered.

Ruttley is at just about every Nicholls athletic event. Football, basketball, baseball or a smaller sport, it doesn’t matter. He’s there. His passion for the Colonels shines through in conversation, too. Ruttley is always upbeat about the Colonels’ on-field hopes. He truly believes Nicholls is a place where success can be had if the winning formula is in place.

That mindset bleeds into Ruttley’s day-to-day work, too.

As the Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs, Ruttley has been a Jack of all Trades. His university bio says he’s been a “do-it-all guy” in the athletic department, and that feels like a pretty accurate description because of the many hats Ruttley has worn throughout his time with the university.

But maybe more important than everyone else is Ruttley’s ability to raise money. Ruttley is the Executive Director of the Colonel Athletic Association and under his watch, Nicholls has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars – money which has allowed the university to go forward with facility upgrades, even while seeing money from the state dwindle because of budget cuts.

Ruttley is well-known by Nicholls’ biggest boosters, in part because of his work, but also because he is a Houma native and graduate of Ellender Memorial High School. If he were to be the new leader of Nicholls’ athletic department, there’s no doubt that the school would be in a better place financially than it ever has been before.

And in the current economic climate, that’s pretty important.

But, of course, winning matters, too, and Plaisance would help Nicholls do that all across the board.

DoBee Plaisance is one of the most unique people I’ve ever encountered in my career. She has the rare ability to take an impossible situation, bless it with positivity and watch the seeds grow. Once that happens, suddenly the once-impossible situation suddenly becomes manageable and miraculous things start to happen.

Plaisance would be a good choice because of her energy and the sheer tenacity she brings to any project she tackles.

When Plaisance took over Nicholls women’s basketball, they were one of the worst teams in America. Now, they’re highly competitive in the Southland Conference, thanks to Plaisance’s vision and unwillingness to take no for an answer.

But Plaisance is more than just a coach. She’s also a quality motivator and a unifier, as well. Added to that, she’s well-connected in national coaching circles and has close contacts with some of the highest-profile people in college athletics – both in women’s basketball and also in other sports, as well.

Under Plaisance, all of Nicholls sports would be competitive simply because it’d drive her nuts if they weren’t. Plaisance is one of the most competitive people in the world.

And that competitiveness is good. It’s something Nicholls needs – just as much as they need the fiscal connections and savvy that Ruttley has in his arsenal.

Nicholls can spend its time flirting with people around the country as it wishes, but they’d better proceed with caution because they have two people more than capable of filling the position right here at home.

I have no inside information to confirm that either Ruttley or Plaisance are interested in the gig.

But if they are, it seems like a no-brainer that either one would be a truly excellent fit.

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