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Commentary: Not time for Livengood to leave UA

Brett Fera
By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday January 28, 2003

During his nine-year run at the helm of Tucson's pride and joy (the UA sports scene) athletic director Jim Livengood has been nothing but a brick wall.

Time and again, Livengood has proven that when faced with everything from triumph to heartache, or budget cuts to expansion, he's never one to lose his head. Even through the adversity of the UA football fiasco in November, the man in charge was always on the ball, proving that he can be one cool cat himself.

But after fulfilling a good portion of his athletic project wish list, namely the completion of the most substantial task of his tenure, the addition of the multi-million dollar Eddie Lynch Athletic Pavilion to the north side of McKale Center, Livengood might be ready to take on another challenge.

It was reported yesterday in the Tucson Citizen that Livengood has been contacted by at least three top-notch programs to manage their departments öö namely Tennessee, Georgia and Indiana.

Some close to the program might wonder if Livengood has anything left to prove in Tucson.

All that has occurred while he's been perched atop the department spearheading major facility renovations, including implementation of brand new state-of-the-art scoreboard and video systems in both McKale Center and Arizona Stadium. Livengood has also been in charge of the school's new athletic branding campaign, which resulted in an overhaul of the athletic logo designs, leading to the current designs proudly displayed all over Arizona Stadium turf.

Athletically, Livengood has seen the Wildcats appear in three men's basketball Final Fours, including winning the 1997 National Championship, four national titles in softball, and two women's golf championships. Pac-10 supremacy is a staple, as well, for most UA teams.

Even with all the success of the UA athletic program since his arrival, both on and off the playing field, the consummate general manager of the Arizona Wildcats might actually just be getting started.

Some would say that yes, Livengood picked up a big, cushy office (it's bigger than my apartment), renovated a couple buildings, and put up some Jumbotrons, but the question still remains as to whether or not that means he should bolt for more bucks.

Would it be prudent for Livengood to walk away now, just weeks after standing by head football coach John Mackovic, the high-profile leader he hired, whom ultimately saw his team come crashing down, nearly crumbling before him? Livengood gave Mackovic his support, and as long as Mackovic is here, his current boss should continue to lend that support, at least until the Arizona football program reaches its ultimate goal öö a New Year's Day date in Pasadena, playing in the Rose Bowl.

Livengood showed resiliency in how he dealt with the Mackovic situation, despite the countless detractors who were calling for Coach Mac's head. He needs to stay now, and prove to the rest of the sports world that he is among the best at what he does.

Has it not been brought to attention that if Livengood went to Georgia, he would be dealing with another problematic coach of sorts in basketball coach Jim Harrick, whose pre-Enron bookkeeping of recruitment dinners while at UCLA ultimately ran him out of Westwood, forcing him to give up the best job at the best school in basketball history?

Sure, he could go to Indiana ÷ Bob Knight is gone after all. But come on, is Mike Davis not a bottle rocket waiting to explode at the sight of one bad call, a-la his predecessor? When Duke's Jay Williams drained a late, long-range three-pointer while getting hacked in last year's tourney, giving him the chance to tie the game, Davis was on his knees crying next to the bench. And who could forget him running onto the court earlier this season and chest bumping a ref while play was still going on? He was tossed really quickly, and even got to watch a game at home for that stunt.

Livengood deserves better than that, and who better than men's basketball head coach Lute Olson to prove that to him, as if he even needs to?

He also showed tremendous tact and resiliency in an unfortunate situation two short years ago öö the passing of Bobbi Olson, the first lady of UA hoops.

Livengood stood by the team and the Olson family, most notable his dear friend Lute, for whom rumors circulated about throughout the entire second half of the 2000-2001 season as to whether or not he would return to coaching after losing his wife.

Perhaps Olson himself might center around what would ultimately become Livengood's claim to fame, should he stick around long enough to find the successor to the crown that Lute has held for over two decades.

With no disrespect to all he has been a part of here, Livengood still has plenty to prove at the UA.

The most important question at hand still has yet to be addressed though. Are there really that many schools that are better than Arizona to hold this type of post?

There might be a couple, sure. But none of those schools exist in Athens, Bloomington or Knoxville.

Arizona's consistency among the nation's elite programs speaks for itself. While on the job for just under a decade, Livengood has headed a program that has posted nine top-10 finishes in the final standings for the Sears Director's Cup since his arrival, presented each year to what is considered the top overall school in the nation for athletics.

How will Livengood even be able to have his kids over if he does leave? He and his wife Linda have two children, both UA graduates.

Livengood's heart lies with the UA, and always will. He needs to stay in Tucson and add to the legacy he has already started over the past nine years.

Obviously he won't stay forever, but that wont be too much of a problem.

After all, he just needs to stay long enough to keep the program sharp öö so that I can have his job 10 years from now.


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