Beyond Varsity Blues Admissions Scandal Connection, The List of Bernard Muir's Bad Decisions Grows

Bernard Muir is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons. This time, it is a Netflix documentary where he is accused of having direct involvement in the Varsity Blues bribery scandal. Muir has denied the allegations through a University spokesperson.

The Stanford Daily:

Former sailing coach implicates athletics director in college admissions scandal: Former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer claims that Athletics Director Bernard Muir knew college admissions scandal ringleader Rick Singer while Singer was bribing coaches to secure wealthy children admission to elite universities, according to a Netflix documentary released on Wednesday.

We can’t say we’re surprised. Bernard Muir has a long record of bad decisions that have led to bad headlines

  • Bernard Muir was the Athletic Director at the University of Delaware who oversaw the elimination of the men’s varsity track and cross country programs, leading to a lawsuit from 40 team members and an investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

  • Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Pearlman openly mocked Muir’s justification for the cuts at the time and referred to Muir’s favoritism for the not-so-marquee Delaware Football program as a “money suck.”

The reasons presented by Bernard Muir, the school's athletic director, were extremely reasonable -- especially if you're the type of person who thinks 13 running backs just isn't enough. Citing "exercising fiscal responsibility and remaining in compliance with Title IX," Muir said that the cross-country program, what with its $20,000 budget and 12 roster spots (featuring zero scholarships), was damning the university to a place in eternal gender hell.

Muir Makes Investments with No Returns

Since being named Stanford’s athletic director in 2012, Muir has made big financial investments but hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory.

Muir has steered tens-of millions-of dollars into funding Basketball and Football with no correlation to improved competitiveness or more wins.

  • While Muir’s marquee investments have not won any titles, the teams among the 11 cut programs account for 20 national titles and produced 27 Olympic medals.

Muir’s first big move was hiring men’s basketball coach Jerod Haase. In fact, Muir has the same number of basketball-lawsuits as he does NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament appearances. Muir’s hiring decision has led a laundry list of absolutely no results:

  • 1 NCAA Tournament appearances.

  • 1 NIT appearance.

  • 1 20-win season.

More in-Court, than on-Court Appearances

Stanford’s most recent NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2014 under Coach Johnny Dawkins. The team reached the round of the Sweet 16. Dawkins responded to his dismissal with a legal challenge, putting Muir and Stanford in the wrong type of court. According to The Mercury News: Former basketball coach Johnny Dawkins sues Stanford for millions: Dawkins was fired without cause in March 2016 after failing to reach the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in eight seasons. (His record at Stanford: 156-115.) Soon after, he was named head coach at Central Florida.”

Muir’s Misjudgment: Awards bonuses while claiming the department was facing “financial crisis” SF Chronicle: Stanford gave bonuses to staff members who traveled with its football and basketball teams during the pandemic, drawing criticism both internally and by the group fighting to save 11 Cardinal teams slated for elimination because of what the university has deemed a dire financial crisis.

Olympics: Supporting Coordination among College and Olympics Athletics by Cutting Teams

Since 2017, Muir has served on the United States Olympic Committee’s Collegiate Advisory Council which the Stanford athletic department says was established to “increase collaboration with NCAA member institutions and conferences to elevate national engagement and support of Olympic sport opportunities.”

  • Muir’s most recent contribution to the Olympic Committee is eliminating nine of Stanford’s Olympic sports programs.

  • According to The New York Times: The men’s volleyball team has won two N.C.A.A. championships and has featured 10 Olympians, more than two dozen players on the U.S. national team and a two-time coach of the Olympic team. Two Stanford alumni are on the national team right now, and two more could be in the running for next year’s Summer Games in Tokyo.

  • Stanford’s Olympic sports teams were a major factor in the school winning its 25th consecutive Director’s cup which is awarded to the school with the most successful athletic program. Olympic sports women’s volleyball, women’s swimming and diving, men’s gymnastics, women’s water polo, women’s tennis, men’s golf each won a national championship, helping Stanford secure the Cup.

Muir arrived in Palo Alto with enthusiasm for all 36 Sports, but that changed.

SI: Stanford has long been the model of excellence across sports; in 2017, athletic director Bernard Muir proudly told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We have 36 sports, and we’re trying to improve in each and every one of them.” But this year, the Cardinal cut 11 sports, which is an unconventional method of improving them. Muir joined the school’s president and provost in releasing a statement that read: “The financial model supporting 36 varsity sports is not sustainable. The average Division I athletics program sponsors 18 varsity sports.”

Decision to Cut 11 Teams Riddled with Bad Math Muir continues to misstate the facts behind what Stanford will gain if it cuts 11 varsity athletic programs, the biggest whopper being that the cuts will cut the deficit in half. This is not true. Here are the facts:

  • Only 20% of revenue currently comes from broadcast -- not 25% -- and that number is likely to decrease based on trends in NCAA TV contracts.

  • Cutting the 11 sports saves $4.5M per year, according to Department of Education filings, nowhere near "half" the projected deficit.

  • According to the Department's own forecast, the deficit increases after the cuts. The real problem of rising expenses has not been addressed.

Bernard Muir’s Athletic Department continues to spend on bloated administrative salaries

“Blaming an athletic department’s deficits on the squash, rowing and synchronized swimming teams is a little like blaming an alcoholic’s addiction on the bar snacks” - Gary Cavalli, former Stanford Athletic Director

Deficits existed long before the COVID pandemic; they were caused by Bernard Muir overseeing large increases in spending on salaries.

  • Saving $4 million a year by cutting these 11 programs does not cover the $32.8 million rise in compensation/benefits, but it does cut almost a third of the student-athletes.

  • Athletic Director Bernard Muir has overseen an 84% spike in compensation and benefits. Since he took over as Athletic Director in 2012, spending has increased from $38.8 to $71.6 million a year.

  • The growth in compensation and salaries is not driven by the addition of new sports or coaching positions. Growth has been driven by additional administrative positions in the department over the last 10 years.

  • Only one sport has been added since 2012: Women’s Beach Volleyball (17 roster spots, 3 total coaching spots).

  • The average salary of athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and assistant coaches is $80,000

  • The average salary of an athletic department administrative employee is $209,000

Stanford rushed to cut teams, but the savings will not close the deficit

The Stanford Athletic Department began running a deficit in FY 19. The “Steady-State'' deficit settles in at $11.5 million per year, greater than years prior to COVID, even after cutting 11 sports.

These cuts are claimed to save Stanford $8 million a year in expenses.

  • The 11 cut sports are among the least expensive to operate in the entire athletic department.

  • Cutting the 11 sports saves $6.5M per year, according to Department of Education filings and only $4.5M per year net of the more than $23M endowments several of the cut sports already had in place.

  • $4.5M in savings equates to 3% of the athletic department’s annual budget of $150M, 0.07% of Stanford’s overall $6.8B annual budget, and 0.016% of Stanford's $29B endowment.

Is Muir headed to Duke?

Makes you wonder if the speculation from The Mercury News about Muir being a top pick for Duke University to be its next athletic director is true, then maybe we should wish him smooth sailing.

Stanford and its Board of Trustees should reinstate the 11 sports Muir cut so we’re not stuck with his bad decisions if he leaves.

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