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NMU AD search: Diles would like to send teams to compete overseas

April 18, 2012 - Matt Wellens

The second of three finalists for the open Northern Michigan University athletic director position visited campus on Tuesday with David Diles — the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland — made his pitch on the future of Wildcat athletics.

Unlike the first finalist, University of Alaska Fairbanks Athletic Director Forrest Karr, Diles went without a PowerPoint presentation. He lacked the specifics that Karr brought up in his presentation, though the UAF AD has a much greater familiarity with NMU considering both schools are in the Central Collegiate Skiing Association and in the process of transitioning from the CCHA to the WCHA in hockey.

Instead of getting into specifics, Diles kept an open mind and detailed what has been successful for him in the past at St. Bonaventure University in New York, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti and at Case Western Reserve.

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Besides the hope to establish endowments, Diles threw out a few other ideas. Here are some of the other things he touched on Tuesday:

International competition

At Case Western Reserve, the university has sent its NCAA Division III teams to compete internationally in Brazil, Spain, Italy and England. Diles would like to do the same here at NMU to help expand its global reach.

NMU volleyball has a long history of recruiting Brazilians while soccer has joined basketball and hockey in recruiting Canadians.

NMU hockey has dipped into Scandinavia, though I don’t see it as very practical for the team to be playing games over there, not to mention there are plenty of hoops the NCAA requires teams to jump through.

In fact, with NMU trying to increase revenue as much as possible, I’m not sure its very practical to eliminate any home games and send teams out of the country. Budgets are constrained enough and unless the school can establish a gigantic recruiting edge by playing outside the U.S.A., I’m against it for now.

The Spartan Cup

This was one of the cooler ideas Diles’ student-athletes came up with at Case Western Reserve. Their only request of Diles was that the school fund the financial award handed out to the victors, which it did.

Points are accumulated in four categories: Team academic performance (GPA), team competitive success (ranking against peers in league standings), service programs and support of other programs (University had a point system to judge who was attending what events).

I liked how the Spartan Cup encouraged other teams to support each other. Obviously teams that are on the road a lot such as women’s swimming and women’s track and field would be at a disadvantage, but the intentions of the program are cool.

Online presence

Diles is very proud of Case Western Reserve’s website, and one of his favorite features are the stories that highlight stories of student-athletes contributions in the community.

I’m sure we’ll hear North Dakota associate AD Sean Johnson talk about this on Thursday, that your website is your newspaper, radio station and TV station all rolled into one.

Diles shared the same sentiment, and would like to see the university not only feature student athletes in the classroom and in the community, but get a local or national business to sponsor those online features.

“We had two student athletes on our panel that did our website at Case Western Reserve,” Diles said. “We had open sessions for the department. We had representatives from around campus, IT, marketing and communications, student affairs. We made sure we vetted it in different places. Then we went to the Spartan Club, get everybody on board,the executive committee is endorsing it, so you’re not trying to do something really good, only to be backing up.”


Diles brought up what I’ve heard is a hot-button issue on campus, which is rebranding, though I don’t think Diles has any intentions of changing the NMU name, mascot, logo or colors.

“I’d rather not slide into that trap,” Diles said.

“I think the brand here has some really unique opportunities to have a common thread throughout the department.”

But he does think it would be wise for NMU to do a review to make sure everything is consistent, from the colors used to the logos — NMU has a number of different Wildcat logos in the Berry Events Center. Does NMU have consistent jersey colors? Are the trims consistent? For Diles, it’s all about protecting your brand and sending the right message.

When people see an NMU jersey or logo, they know it is NMU and not someone else.

That wasn’t the case for Case Western Reserve, which was using the Michigan State Spartan logo as their own when he arrived. Since then, the Spartans developed their own logo.

“You have to be delicate with branding. I’ve been a part of a couple institutions that have struggled with branding and branding has tripped them up with an unintended negative outcome,” Diles said. “I think building on the brand that we have is important, taking inventory and either confirming. So I wouldn’t speak about colors except if there is in discussion a third color.

“I think that is an area where I would put that question on the table. Let’s have consistency with what we use for piping, what we use for the third color. I’d rather not see, personally, somebody use black and somebody use something else, and the next thing you know, there’s a black sweatshirt with a little bit of green on it. Third colors can become dominant colors.

“Everybody, I would hope to provide them — after a process that we are working on together — with a style guide so that it’s not subject to interpretation. These are the marks we use. If you just want to peal off the Wildcat logo, without the name, this is how it looks. If you want to stack it with the name, this is how it looks. If you are doing more than two colors, these are the ones you use. It’s an opportunity for clarity and every time you do it in a consistent manner, you’re building your brand.”



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