In one of the biggest plaudits to date for Michigan State sports, athletic director Mark Hollis was named the Sports Business Journal's Athletic Director of the Year last night, according to MSU's official athletics website. Hollis beat out Michigan AD Dave Brandon and three other national candidates for the award.
Any of the five nominated athletic directors would have been a fine choice, but Hollis stands out--especially from a business standpoint, which is obviously more important to a publication called the Sports Business Journal than mere wins and losses would be.
Remember when Michigan State played North Carolina in basketball on an aircraft carrier? That was Mark Hollis' doing.
Remember when Michigan State overhauled its logo and branding, which finally brought consistency to an athletic identity that was a mishmash of logos, fonts and colors? That was Mark Hollis' doing.
Even the video-board overhaul at Spartan Stadium was shrewd. Spartan Stadium is, of course, not one of the more hallowed halls of college football in the Big Ten. But, it's not horrible, and Hollis identified a point of need: a video upgrade.
He didn't organize a giant fundraising session to generate $800 million for a whole new stadium because it's actually good business not to hit your donors up for huge sums of money when you don't have to.
There is, of course, the fact that Michigan State basketball and football are concurrently at their healthiest point in ages. That is likely not a coincidence, though every athletic director can attest that coaches and wins can come and go at a moment's notice.
To that end, Michigan State football won't win 11 games a year in perpetuity because nobody does. But the Spartans have done it two years in a row, and as long as Mark Dantonio's happy in East Lansing, they'll be candidates for double-digit wins on a near-annual basis.
Oh, and Hollis has his sights set on Notre Dame for the 2013 Carrier Classic. As if Hollis wasn't going back to the aircraft carrier again. C'mon. The guy's the best AD in the land for a reason, people.