Friday, May 9, 2014

An Embarrassing Lack of Leadership at CSF

By Samuel Chi

As a Cal State Fullerton alumnus, booster and (former) donor, I cannot begin to tell you how embarrassed I am by the administration that's currently running the university. That begins with president Mildred Garcia and includes VP Johnson Eanes, VP Lori Gentles and AD Jim Donovan.

Their handling of the Rick Vanderhook situation was a spectacular display of incompetence. The entire ordeal lasted four weeks, with Vanderhook reinstated after missing four series and 16 games. The school issued two not-widely-distributed press releases to bookend the entire ordeal, all the while the program floundered.

Let's be clear that I'm no fan of coach Vanderhook. I do not believe that he's the man who can continue the program's tradition of excellence. But the way the university administration treated the situation made him a victim, and his job only gets harder from here on out.

He will be back to coach a team that will become the first Titans squad to miss the postseason since 1991. There will be a significant number of transfers from the current roster. There will be recruits who decommit from the program because of the saga, as other schools gleefully expose what an amateur operation Cal State Fullerton truly is, from the top on down.

If the administration did not have enough goods to fire Vanderhook for cause, then he should've been reinstated quickly. If it did, then he should've been fired with cause and let the lawyers handle the aftermath. But the entire situation was treated as if he's a chemistry professor and that his taking four weeks off is no big deal.

But Vanderhook is not a chemistry professor, but the most high-profile employee at Cal State Fullerton, the face of the university's most visible and valuable commodity. Those in charge clearly did not understand this and proceeded like the second-rate bureaucrats that they are.

No one ever called a press conference. Nobody took charge. Not Garcia, not Donovan, no one. No one gave account of what exactly happened and what was done other than a terse press release with one Donovan quote. There is no leadership, no accountability.

Make no mistake, this will be a watershed moment for the program. The Titans last season for the first time failed to make a trip to Omaha in four consecutive seasons, this will make it five. They will have made the Super Regional just once in the last four years after appearing in the Supers in eight straight seasons from 2003-2010.

Vanderhook, made to apologize to the players, will find himself in a toxic situation where he will trust neither his superiors nor those in his charge. This is a recipe for disaster. After Donovan gave him a four-year extension that won't run out until the 2018 season, he'll be determined to toe the company line just to make sure that he sees the end of his contract.

So this program will go nowhere in the next four seasons, and probably beyond. The golden age of Cal State Fullerton baseball is over. It took 40 years to build it and just four weeks to leave it in ruins.