The DePaulia

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Letter to Esteban

In two letters to President A. Gabriel Esteban, one DePaul alum expresses his concerns about the current athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, who has received criticism from students and alumni who question her leadership abilities. He asked for this to be printed in The DePaulia after receiving no response from Esteban.

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9:52 a.m. on March 6

Dear President Esteban,

Please include me on any list of potential donors you have who will start contributing funds back to the university once a new Athletic Director is installed and the Men’s Basketball team is once again made a priority.

We are about to embark on the 14th March Madness in a row where Catholic and/or Catholic urban schools such as Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Villanova, Creighton, and now Loyola will be household names for weeks. There is simply no justification to grant this Athletic Department leadership another pass given how they have laid waste to what was the most powerful extension of DePaul’s brand.

I have now endured 22-plus years of having the first reaction to my announcing DePaul as my alma mater be, “Didn’t they used to have a basketball team?” I am simply tired of it, as are thousands of my fellow alumni.

We have confidence that a new administration led by you will deliver such change. The residual effect on giving, academics, and beyond is worth the investment in a successful program.

Thank you for reviewing.

11 a.m. on March 8

Dear Erin Minné (Senior Vice President for Advancement) and President Esteban,

Greetings. I graduated from DePaul in 1995. Thank you in advance for reading my concerns below.

I assure you this isn’t an uneducated, rambling, unhinged note regarding wanting more wins for our Men’s Basketball team. To the contrary, (hopefully) it’s a thoughtful, coherent, rational note regarding DePaul and the utter embarrassment its most visible brand has become.

I believe if you spoke to any experienced analyst, supporter, industry veteran, etc. you will hear that your current Athletic Director is wholly incapable of succeeding on this level. College basketball lives and dies with coaching hires. The current Athletic Director has had three chances since losing Coach Leitao in 2005 to hire an energetic, capable recruiter and leader who can mimic the success we had from 1999-2004 and up through 1992. What is incomprehensible is seeing how much damage a program can endure when holding on to a coach who has seen his prime past years ago. Leaving Joey Meyer in charge of the program past 1994, when he clearly lost the ability to succeed, caused serious damage to the program. DePaul should never have been 3-23 like it was when he left.

Bill Bradshaw’s hiring of Pat Kennedy and then Dave Leitao (at the time) was smart. Coach Kennedy was in his prime and Coach Leitao was a prodigy of a legend. Coach Leitao’s leaving for UVA and the ACC was understandable; More money and larger stages are tough to ignore.

What followed has been a series of hires designed not to lose a coach again under those circumstances – rather than hiring the best coach for the university. From an alumnus’ standpoint – who has followed this program since I walked on campus in 1991 – this has been about her and not about the University. Coaches Wainwright, Purnell and Leitao (Part 2) were unthoughtful, uninspired and terrible choices. Jerry Wainwright – a good man – was out of his league. Oliver Purnell used DePaul as a retirement fund and Dave Leitao was finished in coaching. He was not on anybody’s radar. Good men? Yes. Big East head coaches? No.

Men’s Basketball is our only revenue generating sport … in more ways than one. I am not talking about gate receipts and parking concessions. Your model should be TCU and what it did in 2011. I reference a 2012 Dallas magazine article written by Mitchell Schnurman regarding the impact that one trip to the Rose Bowl had for that program:

“Ironically, most university presidents don’t buy it. In a 2009 survey by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, more than two-thirds of presidents said that sports success attracted more and higher-quality applicants, and generated more gifts beyond athletics.

Those attitudes, the report said, ‘were at odds with nearly all of the most respected scholarship on these topics.’

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini says that he absolutely believes that sports paid off big. They created enthusiasm and pride, and elevated the campus experience—intangibles that were his primary goals. As for metrics, he says the number of applicants to TCU increased from almost 8,700 to 19,000 in the past five years, with higher SAT scores. And how about this: Cash gifts and pledges from donors grew from nearly $53 million per year to $125 million, he says.”

Investing in a successful program will, yes, change the first reaction I receive (upon announcing DePaul as my alma mater) from, “Didn’t they used to have a good basketball team” to, “You must be happy with their success.” However, I will for the first time write a check to the school. Only my high school and law school have received our money since I last wrote a tuition check. Thousands of others will follow. We don’t have a football team or a baseball team. Bowl games and the College World Series go on without DePaul. We have a chance to be a part of “March” if the University invests in success. Visit TCU. Look at the academic programs. We’re not talking about better players – you will see better students, with more pride and loyalty.

The Tribune article last night was an insult to your Alumni. We realize it doesn’t happen overnight. 14 years is not overnight; 14 years is history. We haven’t mattered on this very important stage for nearly two decades. We are 1-2 in the NCAA Tournament in the last 26 years. That is a lifetime in collegiate athletics. The excuses are stale and sorry. Urban Catholic and/or Catholic programs (without the boon of a D1 football team) such as Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Creighton, Marquette, Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Dayton and now Loyola have provided its Alumni reason to feel proud – and write checks.

You don’t have a base asking for Final Four appearances and coaching changes for 25-win seasons. You have a base desperately asking for a chance to compete, for an end to the embarrassment, and for a chance to be part of the conversation. Read the news. Read the comments on Twitter.  Look at your empty new arena.

The time is now. Make a change. You are on the brink of losing us forever. Thank you for reading.

5 Comments

5 Responses to “Letter to Esteban”

  1. GSH on March 12th, 2018 10:29 am

    Well done.

    [Reply]

  2. Alum on March 12th, 2018 12:09 pm

    Extremely well written. I agree with the post, as I’m sure many other alums do.

    Please make a change.

    [Reply]

  3. Terry Sidlow on March 12th, 2018 7:49 pm

    My wife, late son, and I are DePaul alums and former season ticket holders. Stopped season tickets several years ago and am embarrassed to mention DePaul and men’s basketball in the same sentence. A change at the top is long overdue. AD’s comments quoted in the Tribune were sophomoric and delusional. Coupled with significant exposure of the programs long term futility change must happen now. Otherwise recruiting wil take another hit, attendance will fall and returning players (?) will continue to suffer

    [Reply]

  4. Terry Pad on March 12th, 2018 11:58 pm

    “Didn’t they used to have a good basketball team”

    I don’t wear my DePaul gear anymore because i’m tired of answering that question and trying to explain what is going on with the program.

    [Reply]

  5. Donald Trump on April 2nd, 2018 11:56 pm

    estaban whatever his name is would rather flounder in the backwash…guys a turd. Embark on something great fro godsake, make a legacy, and refuse to anchor yourself to this sinking ship. Sick of holding onto the side of the canoe and trying to rid this thing through. The best time to do something worthwhile is between yesterday and tomorrow. put your stamp on this school already…

    [Reply]

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