U of M Press Conference: Johnson Retires



Some highlights from this afternoon’s press conference at the U of M’s Hardaway Hall of Fame:

Athletic Director R.C. Johnson:

“I can’t thank Larry Porter enough for the time he gave us, the energy he gave us. All anybody can do is give their all, and Larry did that. It didn’t work out, but it wasn’t because he didn’t give everything he had.”

“I’m announcing my retirement, effective at the end of our fiscal year. It’s been a great ride, but it’s time. I recently turned 70, and I’ve been an athletic director for 33 years. My dad never really thought I had a job. But it’s time. I’m running out of ties. I also don’t want my future to take away from what we’re trying to accomplish here. I don’t want any distractions.”

“Academically, we’re at an all-time high. Fund-raising, we’re setting new records year after year. Our Ambassador’s Club is being copied by schools all across the country. Facility-wise, we’re not done. We’re going to make that better.”

“This is not my farewell address. I’ll be here for a while; we’ve got things to do.”

“A special thanks to my president [Shirley Raines]. We’ve been together ten years. That alone is remarkable in this industry.”

“To the athletic department, I say this: Whatever you do, class, dignity, and style.”

U of M president Dr. Shirley Raines:

“I’ve decided to use a search firm that specializes in athletics. We’re reviewing search firms right now and we’ll announce a firm as soon as possible. In addition, I’ve appointed a search committee to be chaired by Brad Martin, former chairman of the board of visitors, and Willie Gregory from the Nike Corporation.”

“The search committee will work with the search firm to narrow down the candidates and interview the finalists. The time line is to complete the search as soon as possible, but to allow the search firm time to vet the candidates, especially the finalists.”

“Since R.C. has announced his retirement at or near the end of the fiscal year, we will begin the process for the search [for a new athletic director] in the spring semester. We’ll use much the same process as for the coach search, with a search firm and an appointed search committee.”

“If the search committee seeks R.C.’s advice, he will provide any information they seek. Most importantly, he will work to make a smooth transition for the new coach and, eventually, the new athletic director.”

Are there terms released on Coach Porter’s buyout?
Raines: “Not at this time. The university will honor its contractual arrangement. That’s a question for legal counsel.”

How committed is the university to going after a new coach who will galvanize the whole community? This could be a big dollar figure.
Raines: “I’m not going to give you a dollar figure, but we are committed to getting the best possible coach for this community. We will hire a search firm to find the next head coach to do what needs to get done, in terms of recruiting and winning.”

What will a new head coach get in terms of resources that past coaches may not have had?
Raines: “Our coaches gave gotten a great deal of resources over the last few years. We’ve added to the travel budget for recruitment purposes. We’ve added to facilities, and there are more additions to the football facilities. The best recruitment is having fans, alumni, and a city that cares about football. We want to communicate that as much as possible.”

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the next coach of the football team?
Raines: “Obviously recruiting. And getting the interest of fans back to football. That’s what we need to accomplish.”

If a coaching candidate has an issue with not knowing who his athletic director will be, how do you address that?
Raines: “We’ll have an orientation and transition period with our present A.D. When we select the new A.D. in the spring, [the new coach] will have some input like the rest of the people in this room. Not to select the new A.D., but certainly input.”

How does the coaching change impact current recruiting for the football program?

Johnson: “There’s always a question about holding onto your commitments. But that’s the case with every sport until they actually sign, regardless [of the coaching situation].”

When exactly did you decide to make the coaching change?
Johnson: “I talked to a lot of the people in this room, to get their opinions. It’s never a vote, but it’s always a discussion. I want to hear from the administration, the donors, the fan base.”

Did social media [and negative commentary] play a role in your decision?
Johnson: “No. You gotta do what you gotta do. There’s never a good time [to retire]. If it wasn’t now, it would be later, and there would be something else going on.”

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