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Former NCA&T Offensive Lineman Promoted to Athletic Director
GREENSBORO – There are some subtleties to Wheeler Brown, a friendly sort with the frame of a bear. But Monday, the former Aggie football player spoke like an offensive lineman, not a diplomat.
“My No. 1 goal would be for us to get our swagger back,” said Brown, who was named athletics director at his alma mater on a full-time basis Monday. “There was a time when we were kings. If you wanted a championship, you had to come through Greensboro to get it, and you had to fight like hell to get it. We’re going back to those days. That’s it.”
All Audio Courtesy of the Greensboro News & Record
As Wheeler Brown is introduced, Chancellor Stanley Battle jokes that Brown elicited a bigger reaction than Battle received.
Brown, who had been AD on an interim basis since Dee Todd was reassigned in November 2007, is familiar with the full spectrum. As a player in 1975, he helped the Aggies win their first MEAC football championship. As an alumnus in the 1980s, he watched from afar as the men’s basketball program ruled the league as thoroughly as any Division I school has owned its conference in 40 years.
Today, the football program enters 2008 on a 27-game losing streak. No A&T team has won a league title in three years. Only Morgan State, which is on a 10-year across-the-board drought, has a longer active streak of futility in the MEAC.
Brown knows this. Still, he jumped at the chance to return to his alma mater as an associate AD in 2002 and hasn’t wavered since.
“I know I can find a helping hand here,” he said. “Going back to Dr. (Ronald) McNair to Elvin Bethea, if you sit down and talk with them, they will tell you they all went through the same thing when times were a little tough around here. You couldn’t get a good meal or there was something wrong with the (dorm) room or the classroom. But there was always somebody there to lend a hand, to pull you up, to straighten you up and get you going in the direction you needed to go.”
Chancellor Stanley F. Battle said a search committee conducted a thorough process, but didn’t feel compelled to look outside the university. He said Brown has signed a three-year contract. Financial terms were not immediately disclosed.
“We really had an outstanding pool of finalists for this position,” said Battle, who took over his post a little more than a year ago. “But Mr. Brown continued to rise. This was his moment, his occasion, his opportunity to demonstrate what he can do as a leader for our institution.”
Friends and associates filled a meeting room at the Bryan Fitness and Wellness Center for Monday’s announcement. They included Jim Toon, the assistant coach who recruited Brown from Baltimore to A&T more than three decades earlier.
“Excellent selection,” said Jerry Eaves, the A&T men’s basketball coach. “He’s a man who can be followed. He’s trustworthy. He has worked his way to this position. He knows the needs of the coaches, and he is the man for the job. It’s not going to turn into rainbows in the sky. He knows it’s a process.”
Brown will be in charge of a department that reported total expenses of $6.3 million for the 2007-08 school. A&T’s per-athlete spending is above the Football Championship Subdivision average, but its sports sponsorship is close to the NCAA minimums for Division I membership. In 2007-08, the university nominally fielded 15 sports, but the women’s swimming team didn’t compete in enough contests to count toward that number officially. That left A&T right at the cutoff marks in overall teams (14), men’s teams (six) and women’s teams (eight.)
Even at 15, the Aggies have two fewer teams than the average Historically Black College or University at the FCS level.
Brown suggested it’s not feasible to fund more sports; the best course of action, he said, is to enhance what is in place.
To that end, he said he will explore a model similar to the partnership between Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M, each of which netted $1.4 million from their meeting in the Florida Classic last season. If it works, A&T would combine with Winston-Salem State and N.C. Central and would play each team at a neutral site every year. If successful, a well-marketed Classic would generate annual revenue for A&T and would be a better deal than alternating the games on campuses, Brown said. He couldn’t immediately estimate the attendance necessary to make the venture worthwhile.
He said he will emphasize personal outreach in seeking contributions from alumni. The way to Brown’s heart is through one’s wallet, and the new boss says he knows how to find it.
“We need you,” he said. “We need your dollars and we need your support. Aggie Pride starts at the hip, not at the lip.”
There are some encouraging signs. In the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2007, the Victory Club, an offshoot of the Aggie Club, reported $242,334 in contributions to the university – a ninefold increase from the $27,334 reported only two years earlier. Total assets, listed at $74,517 in 2005, now exceed $1 million.
“I’ve been handed the keys to a Rolls Royce,” Brown said. “Now all I have to do is find a way to put gas in it.”
Brown promoted to AD
By Rob Daniels, The Greensboro News & Record
Photo Credit: Lynn Hey/The Greensboro News & Record