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Schexnayer Steps Down As Athletics Director/Press Conference Transcripts

Schexnayer Steps Down As Athletics Director/Press Conference Transcripts


SCHEXNAYDER STEPS DOWN AS ATHLETICS DIRECTOR

July 26, 2005 – Matt Hebert, Sports Information

LAFAYETTE – University of Louisiana at Lafayette Director of Athletics
Nelson Schexnayder announced Tuesday he has requested a reassignment to
another area of the University, effective immediately. The University
intends to honor that request.

The University will begin the process of finding a replacement for
Schexnayder immediately.

Schexnayder was named as Louisiana’s acting director of athletics on
Jan. 1, 1993, after Nelson Stokley stepped aside from AD duties to
devote all his energies to the Ragin’ Cajuns football program as head
coach in December 1992. Schexnayder had been serving as associate
athletics director since 1991 and had been closely involved in the
program as the development officer for athletics for one year prior.

He was named to the director of athletics post permanently in June 1994
and served in that capacity the past 11 years.

Under Schexnayder’s watch the Ragin’ Cajuns athletics complex saw vast
improvements to its facilities including a new scoreboard at Cajun
Field, new bleachers installed at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field, a complete
renovation of Earl K. Long Gym and a new surface laid down at Cajun
Track. It was during Schexnayder’s tenure that plans became developed
for a new indoor practice facility which is expected to be open for the
2006 football season.

Schexnayder handled the football scheduling duties for
Louisiana-Lafayette and was able to land home games at Cajun Field with
prominent foes during his tenure, most notably the 1996 contest with
Texas A&M which saw the Cajuns pull off the 29-22 upset victory. Other
big name foes to venture to Cajun Field were Oklahoma State, Texas Tech,
Houston and a visit by the Big 10’s Minnesota in 2002.

Schexnayder was a three-year football standout for the Cajuns from
1969-71 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1973. He served as
president of the Louisiana-Lafayette Alumni Association for one term in
1989 before joining the athletics department in 1990 as development
officer.

NELSON SCHEXNAYDER’S TIMELINE WITH LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE ATHLETICS
Jan. 1990-July 1991 Development Officer
Aug. 1991-Dec. 1992 Associate Director of Athletics
Jan. 1993-May 1994 Acting Director of Athletics
June 1994-July 2005 Director of Athletics

AD heads for sidelines

July 27, 2005 –
Schexnayder to be university’s legal counsel

Dan McDonald
dmcdonald@theadvertiser.com

Schexnayder Timeline

1968 – Joins USL football team of head coach Russ Faulkinberry as a wide receiver.

1970 – Catches two touchdown passes from quarterback George Coussan in the Grantland Rice Bowl in Baton Rouge, the Cajuns’ last bowl appearance.

1973 – Receives bachelor’s degree from USL.

1976 – Receives juris doctorate from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans, joins staff of firm of Phelps, Dunbar, Marks, Claverie and Sims in New Orleans.

1977 – Joins staff of what would become three years later the firm of Hawley & Schexnayder, Ltd., in Lafayette.

1989 – Served as president of UL Alumni Association.

1990 – Joined UL staff as development officer for athletics.

1991 – Named associate director of athletics.

1991 – Cajun athletic program joins newly-organized Sun Belt Conference.

1992 – Cajun men’s basketball team returns to NCAA Tournament for first time since 1983

1993 – Named acting athletic director.

1993 – Cajun softball team makes first of four appearances in the Women’s College World Series, finishing third nationally.

1993 – Cajun men’s and women’s track teams each sweep indoor and outdoor conference titles, a first in Sun Belt history.

1994 – Named director of athletics.

1996 – Cajun football team beats nationally-ranked Texas A&M 29-22 in home opener, arguably the biggest win in the school’s football history.

2000 – Cajun baseball team makes first-ever College World Series appearance, finishing tied for third.

2001 – Sun Belt begins football competition with Cajuns as charter member.

2004 – Cajuns hire Glynn Cyprien as head men’s basketball coach, only to fire him three months later for false degree claims.

2005 – Cajun women’s basketball team wins first conference title in school history.

2005 – Cajun men’s basketball team makes first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances since 1983.

2005 – Resigns as UL athletic director.

Right up until his last minutes as athletic director at the University of Louisiana, Nelson Schexnayder was trying to bring more funding into the Ragin’ Cajun department.

"We have a lot of quality people that have made the most of what they have," Schexnayder said Tuesday. "I only wish I’d been able to get them more money."

Schexnayder officially announced his resignation as UL’s athletic director Tuesday afternoon to a packed room of coaches, athletic staff and supporters, after informing members of the UL staff of his imminent departure earlier in the day.

Schexnayder, who has served as athletic director since Jan. 1, 1993 – the longest tenure in the UL post since Whitey Urban – will be reassigned within the university. He said during the announcement that he would assume a legal counsel post for the school, but those details are still pending.

UL President Ray Authement was not at the press conference and was not available for comment Tuesday.

"This decision was reached late last week," Schexnayder said. "Dr. Authement and I met, and we decided this was a good time for this to happen. Our conversations are private and always have been, but he’s always supported me in what we’ve tried to do. He has a great love for athletics."

Schexnayder, a former three-year football letterman for the Cajuns and a 1973 UL graduate, was adamant that his resignation was not related to recent NCAA inquiries into allegations made by basketball recruit Berry Jordan. The NCAA opened a "fact-finding mission" this spring that is still continuing.

"This has nothing to do with whatever allegations have been made of the athletic department and the university," he said. "I strongly believe that nothing will come of those and I and the members of our staff are not involved in any wrongdoing."

Schexnayder said he expected Authement to appoint an interim athletic director and to begin accepting applications for the post, anticipating a timetable of two to four months. But he was quick to add that he would not be a part of the selection process.

"I won’t make any recommendation," he said. "I don’t want someone to come in as my selection, or someone to come in that isn’t my selection."

David Walker, the university’s director of auxiliary services who has been involved with athletics on NCAA and other legal issues, was rumored to be a leading candidate for the interim AD role. Two athletic staff members and one university administrator identified him as a candidate Tuesday. Walker was also unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Schexnayder was often emotional during his 20-minute appearance Tuesday afternoon at the Cajundome, thanking former UL football coach and Athletic Director Nelson Stokley, former Vice President and current University of Louisiana system ____ Joe Savoie and Authement for the chance to join the university staff and later to become athletic director.

He also thanked former and current staff members, coaches and athletes for their efforts in a budget-challenged program. The UL athletic budget is approximately $6.7 million annually, less than one-tenth the budget of some Division I-A programs.

"If our athletes and coaches had the money they have, we’d blow their socks off," Schexnayder said. "I wish I’d been able to encourage more people to buy tickets and come to the games.

"It’s tough to look at some of our coaches, asking for things they’d like to do in their programs and things that make perfect sense, and we have no money to do them."

Despite the budgetary woes, the UL athletic program has seen ongoing improvements to facilities and has had on-field success since Schexnayder took over as acting director of athletics in 1993 and became full-time AD in 1994. He mentioned the College World Series appearance of the baseball team, four trips to the Women’s College World Series in softball, post-season appearances in men’s basketball and the rejuvenation of the women’s basketball program on Tuesday.

"Our teams have had tremendous success," he said, "and our department has supported our teams well. Our sports have improved, and we have great facilities. Some schools have better facilities, some of them on our schedules, but not many."

The native of St. James spent 13 years in private law practice before becoming the university’s development officer for athletics in 1990, one year after serving as president of the UL Alumni Association. He was named associate athletics director in 1991 and became acting AD in 1993 when Stokley stepped aside from athletic director duties to devote more time to his head football coaching role.

Schexnayder recently concluded contract negotiations with women’s basketball coach J. Kelley Hall on a four-year pact, and was involved with baseball coach Tony Robichaux in contract talks before Tuesday’s announcement. Robichaux’s current contract expired June 30.

"We were in discussions, and now we’ll do that with the next athletic director," said Robichaux, who just completed his 11th season and is among the nation’s youngest coaches with 600 career wins. "I’ll always be indebted to him. When you’re in college athletics you work for your university, but you also work for and with your athletic director. He’ll be sorely missed."

Originally published July 27, 2005

Colleagues surprised by Schexnayder resignation

July 27, 2005 –

Dan McDonald
dmcdonald@theadvertiser.com
and Bruce Brown
bbrown@theadvertiser.com

Nelson Schexnayder caught his University of Louisiana athletic department staff off guard Tuesday, even though some perceived a slight change in his demeanor over the past few weeks.

"He’s been more relaxed the last week or two," said coordinator of athletic development Gerald Hebert. "I looked up in the stands during a baseball camp a couple of weeks ago, and he was sitting up there smoking a cigar and watching the camp."

Schexnayder stepped down as athletic director of the Ragin’ Cajun program Tuesday, telling his senior staff in a regular Tuesday meeting, making phone calls to most of the head coaches Tuesday morning and circulating a memo to all athletic staff members.

"When Nelson called me this morning to tell me, it was a total surprise," said Student Athlete Center director and academic advisor Danny Cottonham, "Nothing that’s happened recently has indicated anything like that. I think everyone’s pretty surprised."

"I was stunned," said women’s basketball coach J. Kelley Hall, who was attending an AAU girls tournament in Tennessee Tuesday. "I hadn’t heard anything, no rumblings at all. He called me about 10:30 and said that he was going to resign and stay with the university in some capacity.

"He said he wanted to thank me for everything I’ve done, and that he was proud of what we’ve accomplished and where we’ve been able to take the program."

"That he’d call and thank the coaches doesn’t surprise me," said long-time fan and program supporter Steve Gossen. "He’s always been a class act."

Schexnayder said at a Tuesday press conference that he and UL president Dr. Ray Authement had reached a decision on his reassignment late last week.

"When you make a decision like this, you know it’s something he’s thought about a lot," said head football coach Rickey Bustle, who returned from Sun Belt Conference Football Media Day Tuesday. "He’s done this for quite a long time, so it probably wasn’t an easy decision, but it sounds like it’s what he wants to do and I’ll support him in whatever he wants to do."

Bustle got his call from Schexnayder at a medical office building near Lafayette General Medical Center, where he had raced from the Sun Belt activities to get relief from a kidney stone attack.

"I don’t remember much from the call," he said. "I wasn’t sure if somebody was kidding me."

"In my nine years here, Nelson has always been very supportive," said Cajun men’s basketball coach Robert Lee, who took UL to the NCAA Tournament last year in his first year as head coach. "He was that way with Marty Fletcher, Jessie Evans and all the assistants. You always knew he had your back.

"The success we’ve had in athletics at this school has been unbelievable with what we’ve had, and that’s a tribute to the coaches and to Nelson.

"Did I anticipate it? No, not at all."

"From an administrative standpoint, I’ll remember how he worked for coaches and worked with coaches," softball coach Stefni Lotief said. "There was never a place or time when I wasn’t welcomed with open arms and he would try to work out a solution to whatever we needed. He’s been there through thick and thin for us.

"He made going to work easy, and what UL teams have accomplished while he’s been here has been phenomenal."

"I will always be indebted to him," said baseball coach Tony Robichaux. "When my wife and I visited with Nelson and M’Liss, I felt comfortable here. As a coach, you work with the athletic director and that’s one big reason we came here from McNeese.

"I’ve been here 11 years, and I’m glad I was able to get him through the gates at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha (the 2000 College World Series).

"His great gift was that he hired people, then let them do what they do best. When (assistant) Wade Simoneaux left for Louisiana Tech, I told Nelson I had three candidates I was looking at. He told me ‘You’re hiring the assistants.’

"I’m going to miss him. He’s been a great A.D."

Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters was meeting with the rest of the league athletic directors Tuesday when told of Schexnayder’s announcement.

"He called this morning and we played phone tag," said Waters, who himself served as associate athletic director at then-USL two decades ago. "He’s been great to work with. He’s a very analytical thinker, something you would expect with his legal background, and he brought a lot to the table for our league. I’m very fond of him."

"He’s done a good job and he’s done it for a long time," said supporter Dan Carroll at Tuesday’s announcement. "He’s brought us a long way even with all the funding problems. He’s done a lot with a little."

Schexnayder was noted for occasional outbursts of temper, but long-time UL instructor and Internet Athletic Network director Ed Dugas said that Schexnayder’s passion and love for and devotion to the Cajun athletic program was never questioned.

"Sometimes it reminded me of the old pressure cookers," Dugas said. "There can be so much pressure on it when the heat’s turned up and you don’t notice it, until you come in the kitchen and see what’s on the stove. But the last couple of weeks, you’d swear everybody over there was on a honeymoon. All the attitudes were upbeat and positive and everybody was getting ready for the start of a great year."

Robichaux looked ahead to the search for a replacement.

"I think we need someone who understands the workings of the department, but who is not limited by it," Robichaux said. "He or she will need to have both, someone who is able to put his or her mind on tomorrow’s business.

"It’s a greasy pole when you create an image. It’s tough to keep up. It sucks the energy out of you to try to keep it at that high level."

Originally published July 27, 2005

Schexnayder Press Conference Transcript

July 26, 2005 – Matt Hebert, Sports Information

Highlights on Nelson Schexnayder’s comments referring to his decision to
step down as director of athletics at the University of Louisiana at
Lafayette

OPENING STATEMENTS
I guess we can begin, I think that you all have a release, which tells
you what this is about. I am leaving the athletic department. I would
like to begin by thanking people.

First I would like to thank the people who gave me an opportunity to
join the university, Nelson Stokley, Dr. Joseph Savoie and Dr. Ray
Authement. I’d like to thank the two people that gave me a chance to be
the athletic director – Nelson Stokley and Dr. Ray Authement. I would
also like to thank Dr. Ray Authement for his support of athletics over
the years, both before I became athletic director and since – he has
been our best supporter.

I would like to thank those people in the University who play a role in
athletics. One of the things I have learned is that athletics just
doesn’t happen. A lot of folks are deeply involved – University Program
Council; maintenance; parking and transit; the band; auxiliary services;
university police; the physical plant; academic services, financial aid,
alumni affairs; news services. Without them, our events, our efforts
would not be as successful as they have been.

To our fans and supporters, thank you. We have some of the best fans and
supporters of any school in the country. We need more of them!

To the members of the athletic department, our secretaries, game
management, business, compliance, athletic training, equipment, strength
and conditioning, sports information, thank you. We can’t put on our
events without you. You are the backbone of athletics. You don’t get a
whole lot of thanks, so I’m thanking you today. Thank you.

To our coaches present and past, thank you for your efforts on behalf of
our athletic department and all of our teams. You struggle with limited
resources, you play the best in the country and you make us proud.

Finally, and most important, thank you to the athletes. They are
wonderful people who have contributed to our success. To those athletes,
who have been Ragin’ Cajuns, now and in the past, thank you.

To all my family, thank you for your sacrifices, for your support and
your love. Thank you all for coming.

Question 1 – Nelson, the timing, is this something that you have been
mulling over?
Response: I had thought about the possibility of leaving athletics,
obviously it’s not something that you broadcast, but I had thought about
it a little bit and then recently Dr. Authement and I visited and talked
about it more directly and more definitely. An opportunity has arisen in
the University and so I will be moving to another area of the University
in the near future. We still have details to work out, but I am very
fortunate to be a part of this University.

Question 2- When you look at your years here, can you come up with one
or two things that you would describe as your legacy to this department,
because you have had a pretty long tenure here.
Response: I was looking the other day and I have served as athletic
director longer than any person in the past 30 years. Our athletic teams
have had tremendous success. Our athletic department has represented and
supported our teams very well. We’ve been to the College World Series
four times in softball. We’ve been to the College World Series in
baseball. We’ve hosted in the 1990s, as many NCAA softball regionals as
any team in the country. We’ve even hosted an NCAA baseball regional.
We’ve been in basketball tournaments. Our sports have improved in my
opinion. Women’s Basketball is on a tear right now. It’s tough to
improve when everybody else has all those resources.

When you look at the improvements in our facilities – that fans,
supporters, the university and the state of Louisiana have invested in
us – we have great facilities. This is a class place, a wonderful
athletic department and we have wonderful people who are in it and I am
happy to have been part of that.

Question 3- Would your successor continue in the NCAA Committee roles
that you currently hold?
Response: No, I do not think that leaving the athletic department allows
me to stay on the NCAA committee’s that I serve on.

Question 4-Would your successor step into those roles?
Response: I do not know how that works. I am presently the chair of the
recruiting sub-committee of the academic eligibility and compliance
cabinet. In fact I just became the chair of the recruiting sub-committee
and had some ideas of how I might have an impact, but that will change.
I am sure I will be resigning from those positions with the conference
and with the NCAA.

Question 5- Nelson this is obviously something very emotional for you.
Can you describe the emotions you’re feeling now, after being in the
same position for 11 or 12 years? How tough is it to walk away?
Response: Well it’s been fourteen years actually. It is tough and I did
not think I would be emotional, but obviously I am a little. I love
athletics. I love this place. I love the people that I have worked with.
This is a wonderful, wonderful place and I just hope that it continues
to grow and I believe it will.

I believe there will be a lot of people who will want to be here and be
the athletic director. I believe that we will get a good athletic
director and we will continue to grow and be successful.

Question 6- Do you have any kind of notion that you’d share about what
the process will be to find your replacement?
Response: That’s not my decision to make.

Question 7- Do you have any recommendations?
Response: No, I will not make a recommendation, because I don’t want
whoever the choice is to come in as my selection, or come in as not my
selection. I want the new person to come in, because that person was
chosen, because he or she was best for the position. That person will
have a lot of other challenges and doesn’t need any other baggage.

Question 8- Nelson you talked about fundraising, there are some athletic
directors who are very front and center and they are the point man for
any fundraising efforts. You’ve kind of been in the background. Is that
a philosophy?
Response: It’s probably a function of my personality. Fundraising is a
challenging effort. I commend Gerald (Hebert) in what he has done and I
commend Eric (Maron) in marketing and promotions. It takes someone
special. I have been more of an administrative manager. I have tried to
get quality people and put them in a place that they can do their jobs
and then let them do it. I think for the most part that it has worked.
That’s just the way I’ve done it. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong,
but that’s what I have done.

Question 9- Nelson, you have any idea of the timeline involved to find a
successor?
Response: I do not. I am taking a guess that I will be in athletics
another week or so and then I will probably be moving out.

There will probably be an acting, or interim, or temporary replacement
named, who that may be I do not know. Then to select an athletic
director, I think will take anywhere from two to four months. Those are
all guesses on my part, but that would make sense.

Question 10- You have been operating on a budget of less than seven
million dollars. Is that part of it?
Response: A little bit part of it. It’s tough to look at some of our
coaches when they come and say ‘I need this, I’d like to do this. It
makes sense, it’s appropriate at our level, it’s going to pay off’ and
we don’t have the funds necessary. That’s tough.

We have quality people that work extremely hard to see that the
University and the athletic department are a success and they’ve made
the most of it. I congratulate you and commend you.