I, like every other Northwestern student, received an email from a guy named Morton O. Schapiro today. The gist of the email is that he's the new president of Northwestern University, and he's replacing Henry S. Bienen, whose last day on the job was yesterday. (For some reason, I was really picky about middle initials in this paragraph.)
I think it's safe to say that Schapiro immediately becomes the second or third most important figure in Northwestern sports, behind Pat Fitzgerald and Jim Phillips.
To understand why, look at Northwestern sports under Bienen's administration. Bienen took over the job on January 1, 1995, and Northwestern sports was an elaborate joke at best, with a few NIT teams, and really, nothing else since the 1960's.
Exactly a year later, the team was in the Rose Bowl. (This had nothing to do with Bienen, but, still.) Bienen quickly realized something no other Northwestern administrator ever had: sports teams seem irrelevant to the school from an academic standpoint, but they breed more than school spirit. The increased exposure from the Rose Bowl appearance led to an increase in applications, which allowed NU to be more selective of who they accepted academically and earned the school money. Yes, having good sports teams is fun, but it's also great for the school's image at large, and I'd say NU has improved overall due to our team's on-field improvements. He devoted himself to improving the school's sports teams, and the coaching hires he made show it. Although he can't take credit for the Rose Bowl win, our football teams, plus our teams in other sports such as lacrosse and softball have seen much more success under Bienen than under any previous president. And that's probably not a coincidence.
On the flipside, Bienen is supposedly Bill Carmody's biggest fan, and the main reason he's still employed. Bienen loves himself some basketball, enough so that he brought it up for no apparent reason at a speech to the parents of incoming students last year, and he's good friends with Carmody. There's a lot of speculation that the end of Bienen's administration will bring the end of Carmody's if there isn't major improvement this year. We'll see how it all actually turns out, but, remember, the athletic director and all the coaches are employed by the school, and the final decisions as to who keeps what job are made by the president.
Schapiro comes from Williams College, which is somewhat of a sports powerhouse on the D-III level. The Ephs have won 13 of 14 Division III director's cups, which are awarded to the school that has the best all-around performances in NCAA championship events, with points awarded based on team finishes in every sport the NCAA sanctions competitions in. (On the D-I level, Stanford has won the Director's Cup 15 of the 16 years the cup has been awarded, with their only second-place finish coming in the trophy's inaugural 1994 season. This makes me a little suspect, as Stanford doesn't seem like a sports powerhouse, but I guess they're definitely a program NU can look up to, even if our football team is way, way better.) Long story short, Schapiro knows how to run an athletic department. If it's worth anything, Williams recruited the best player in my high school's basketball history, and he comes off the bench there.
So, the Schapiro era starts today, and its impact will be felt in NU sports. I think we'll be in good hands, and I think the bottom-feeder days of NU sports are fading fast.
Bienen, oddly enough, has accepted a position as the chairman of the Board of Directors for the UFL, which is the same football league that CJ Bachér is currently quarterbacking in. So good luck with that, ex-Prez/CJ.