Before athletics gets Nicol, change is due

by Beacon Staff • March 20, 2014

At issue: A new era of Emerson athletics is ready to begin

Our take: It's time for Emerson to publicly apologize to Hank Smith

It took nearly two years, but Emerson has finally filled the long-vacant athletic director position. The college went 668 days without a permanent department head, after Kristin Parnell resigned in May 2012. 

Patricia Nicol, the new director, is by all accounts a great addition to the college. She received top marks from the search committee that selected her, and comes to Boston from Southern Connecticut State University, a Division 2 school that, similarly to Emerson, does not have top-funding for its athletic department. In that regard, Nicol will be able to help Emerson devise a new gameplan, something she told the Beacon she’s excited to do. 

But there still remains one hurdle — one that has nothing to do with Nicol, but one that can no longer be ignored. Before a new era of athletics can truly be ushered in, Emerson needs to publicly apologize to former men’s basketball coach Hank Smith. 

Smith was unceremoniously fired in the middle of the 2011 season. The 16-year tenured coach built his program from the ground up, and produced alumni like Sam Presti, general manager of the Oklahoma City, and Rob Hennigan, general manager of the Orlando Magic.

But you’d be hard-pressed to know either NBA executive attended Emerson, as they’ve both effectively shunned the college since Smith’s firing. Take the 2013 NBA Draft. After Emerson posted a video of Presti doing an on-air interview with ESPN, a representative from the Thunder promptly contacted the college, and asked it to remove the video from the website. 

It wasn’t too late after 668 days to hire a new leader for Emerson’s athletics program, and it’s still not too late for Emerson to extend an apology to the dismissed coach, and his players. 

It’s true that relations overall between athletics and its alumni have improved since Parnell’s exit. That’s due in large to the work of Stanford Nance, who served as an interim while the college searched for a new director, and will now stay on under Nicol as senior associate director. Nance led the charge to fix a major crisis at the college, but the job isn’t done yet. 

For the college to continue to ignore this glaring black eye is negligent. For Emerson — where much of the student-body aspires to get into communications, journalism, or the sports world — to not extend the olive branch and try to remedy this situation constructs an unnecessary wall between current students and a potentially great resources.