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Athletic Department Transformation

April 15, 2019 Jim Warner
Louisville Cardinal Vince Tyra Ethical Leadership announcement

The Project for Positive Leadership is proud to partner with the University of Louisville Athletic Department in multiple ways, including helping the Department to identify its goals and core beliefs, and then engage in the process of integrating those goals and core beliefs into the systems, structures, policies, procedures, and behavior of employees throughout the organization. When Vince Tyra was hired as the interim athletic director for the athletic department on October 3, 2017, he and the other employees worked tirelessly—during one of the most difficult periods in the Department’s history—to not only overcome their troubles, but also to learn how to make the department a leader among athletic departments in in living virtues such as integrity, service, inclusion, transparency, ambition and enthusiasm with excellence. Compliance is critical, and the department insists on compliance, but the goal was to go beyond “sufficient” ethics to pursue virtues and excellence. A vision like this is not achieved overnight, but the Department has been relentless in its pursuit of this vision. 

The Project on Positive Leadership has helped the Department in pursuit of this vision through multiple initiatives. One of these was a process for identifying goals and core beliefs. With a cross-section of representatives from the organization, we generated a first draft, and then vetted and edited the statement, first with Department leaders, and then with the entire organization through survey feedback. The final list of department goals and core beliefs is: 

Department Goals: 

At the end of 2023, the University of Louisville Athletic Department will be able to say that, in the past three years: 

  1. There have been no level 1 or level 2 NCAA violations by anyone affiliated with the department. 
  1. We have won NCAA and ACC championships. 
  1. Every year has ended with a financial surplus. 
  1. Trust and collaboration have become the norm among everyone affiliated with the department. 
  1. We have made an intentional effort to foster the improvement of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the department. 

Our Core Beliefs: 

  1. We choose integrity first. We demand winning, but never by compromising integrity…athletically, interpersonally, intellectually, and fiscally. 
  1. We support our student-athletes. We are accountable for helping our students become champions in competition and in life. 
  1. We win together. We celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential cornerstones of a successful team. Through trust and respect, we value each other’s ideas, backgrounds, and contributions that drive organizational success for our athletics department and university. 
  1. We all work in customer service. Even the small decisions we all make affect how excited fans and donors are about the experience we provide. 
  1. We always seek to improve. We consistently seek and encourage learning through feedback, education, and innovation to grow and be resilient as an individual, an athletic department, and a university. 
  1. We share the organizational playbook. We are transparent as ethically appropriate with fiscal information and organizational decisions because it enables faster solutions, builds trust, and motivates all of us to be responsible. 
  1. We are fans too. We have fun watching Cardinals sports and make it fun to work in this athletic department. 

Identifying strategic goals and core beliefs is not the same thing as living the goals and core beliefs. These goals and beliefs need to be embedded in the structure and the culture of the organization. Therefore, we also engaged in a number of parallel processes, including training for the leadership team and for others in the organization, seeking and prioritizing a list of changes based on employee input, creating a system for employee development, re-vamping the compensation system, improving the way in which the strategy and initiatives of the organization get communicated, and designing and collecting measures of performance relative to the goals and core beliefs of the organization. the Project on Positive Leadership assisted with all of these initiatives, and made progress because of the heroic efforts of the employees who participated. 

              Although the transformation is not complete—and in some ways never will be because a vision like this must be accomplished and re-accomplished again and again—the University of Louisville Athletic Department is already seeing some thrilling improvements. For example, student athlete grades and community service hours are now the highest in the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

If you are interested in working with the University of Louisville to move beyond ethical sufficiency to excellence in your own athletic department, please click here

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