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He's Opening NCAA's Door : Schultz Closes Gap Between Members and Organization

January 17, 1989|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

Richard Schultz, a former coach and athletic director who holds a commercial pilot's license, has manned the controls for 1 1/2 years as executive director of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.

His mission is to make sure that the NCAA flies right.

He has attempted to do so with an open-door policy that is in direct contrast to that of his predecessor, Walter Byers. Until Schultz took over on Sept. 1, 1987, Byers had been the NCAA's only executive director since the position was established in 1951.

Under the reclusive Byers, a faceless figure who was heard but seldom seen, the NCAA was often portrayed as a mysterious, unbending organization that confused the public and created animosity between the office and its members.

The engaging Schultz, 59, has moved to demystify the NCAA by maintaining a more public profile and by making himself available to the members and to reporters.

Last year, Schultz said, he spent 163 days on the road, 59 of them on college campuses.

Said Dave Cawood, an assistant executive director for the NCAA: "Walter was an outstanding administrator, but it was not his personality to be visible, be out front or to spend a lot of time away from the office. Dick's personality meshes with what was needed at the time he took the job.

"He's been totally encouraged by his predecessor, by the staff and by his superiors to do what he's doing. And I think it's been proven in the last year that the executive director needed to be more visible."

Schultz's personality has won new friends for the NCAA.

"I've never felt that I ever had a voice within the NCAA," Dale Brown, Louisiana State's basketball coach and a longtime critic of the organization, told the New York Times. "That's why I chose the public platform, because I felt that I wasn't one of the boys.

"Now with Dick Schultz, I feel totally different. I think he just knows what's going on. I would like to see a new organization formed, and I would like to see Dick Schultz be the head of it."

Schultz believes that coaches and athletic directors have been quick to accept him because he is one of them.

Unlike Byers, whose background was in sports journalism and whose outlook was said to be more idealistic than realistic, Schultz brought experience at all levels of college athletics.

Born in Kellogg, Iowa, a town of about 1,000 between Des Moines and Iowa City, he played basketball and baseball in high school, earning an athletic scholarship to Central College in Pella, Iowa, where he earned 10 varsity letters.

He was married while in college, and he and his wife, Jackie, have raised two sons and a daughter in almost 40 years of marriage.

Until they moved to Kansas City, Mo., for the start of Dick Schultz's 5-year tenure as executive director of the NCAA, the couple had designed and built their last six houses, with Dick doing the building either by hand or as general contractor.

Also, Schultz supplemented his income as a corporate pilot.

But, first and foremost, he was a basketball and baseball coach, beginning his career at a high school in Humboldt, Iowa, where he spent 10 years. In 1960, he took a job as assistant baseball coach and freshman basketball coach at the University of Iowa and later served 8 years as head baseball coach and 4 years as head basketball coach.

After giving up coaching in 1974, Schultz spent 2 years as an assistant to the university president before moving to Cornell University as athletic director. At Cornell, and later at Virginia, he spent 11 years as an athletic director and also served as chairman of the NCAA basketball committee, negotiating the most recent contract with CBS, which reportedly is worth about $150 million to the NCAA.

He left behind a good life at Virginia, where his home had a majestic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and his perks reportedly included membership in a country club, use of a university-owned plane and a $360,000 annuity that would have matured next year.

And, in signing on with the NCAA, he accepted what basically is a thankless job.

Violations among member schools continue to tarnish the image of the organization, which in the last 6 months has put 7 schools on probation. Sanctions against the Kentucky basketball program have yet to be announced.

However, Schultz believed that he was somehow obligated to serve the NCAA in the interest of returning integrity to intercollegiate athletics.

Last week, on the eve of the NCAA convention in San Francisco, he discussed a variety of topics, including the changing role of his job, NCAA enforcement policy, integrity in college athletics and cases involving the Kansas basketball program and Oklahoma State football player Hart Lee Dykes.

Question: You seemed to have it pretty good at Virginia. What prompted you to take this job?

Answer: That's an interesting question. I had absolutely no interest in this job whatsoever. I liked Virginia. I thought I'd be there the rest of my life. I enjoyed being involved with the NCAA basketball committee.

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