ANNUAL MANUAL- SPORTS DOCTOR- To-doo list: How chickens would fix UVA's athletic woes
For this my Annual Manual column for Charlottesville newcomers, my editor came to me with an interesting proposition: "If you, Juanita Giles, were to become athletic director at the University of Virginia, what would you do?"
After I got over my initial disappointment upon learning that it was merely a hypothetical question and I wouldn't be getting Craig Littlepage's huge office and six-figure salary, my thoughts turned to my grandfather. When he entered UVA, he didn't bring a mini-fridge or TV with him, seeing as how they didn't exist. He did bring a cord of wood he'd chopped himself. It was 1923, and he had to bring his winter fuel with him to school. UVA didn't have to teach my grandfather how to work, he already knew.
Not so anymore.
If UVA decided to join the 8.4 percent of Division I schools that employ female athletic directors, I doubt I would be the school's final choice. I've no experience managing millions of dollars, or rather handing millions of dollars over to prima donnas and hangers-on. I've never learned to ignore rule violations or kowtow to someone with connections. I'm pretty short on necessaries for the position, if tolerance of blatant misconduct is any indication.
That said, if I somehow got the job of AD, I'd get to work right away. Considering how brutally short my tenure would be, I'd have no choice.
You see, an athletic director's job is to keep coaches and athletes out of the caca, not get them in it, and that's where I'd go wrong. Between too many of UVA's gridiron gladiators ending up behind iron bars (see below), and too many of former Cavalier greats getting into trouble after graduation (Matt Schaub, I'm looking at you), we've got ourselves a discipline problem here at UVA, and contrary to popular opinion, caca is a solution, not a problem. If I were UVA's athletic director, there would be caca aplenty.
You see, that's what comes from chickens: hundreds and hundreds of chickens.
I'm a hard taskmaster; ask any of my former students. I worked their little fingers to the bone and made their lives miserable if they tested me. It's funny how the ones who hated me still ask my advice.
My advice is always the same: go to the chicken house. They know what I mean.
It wouldn't take long for UVA's athletic department to get the picture, either. A chicken house is the best character-building tool in the world. Turn your back on it and suffer the consequences.
There's some good open space behind John Paul Jones Arena; it would accommodate a large chicken house. My first order of business as athletic director would be to send head football coach Al Groh to fetch some logs. Not two by fours, but logs. If Groh wants to wear a sweatshirt on the sideline, he ought to sweat on occasion. Cutting logs for a 38,000-square-foot chicken house is sure to do the trick.
For a start.
Groh wouldn't have to build the chicken house all by himself; that's just cruel. Head men's and women's basketball coaches Dave Leitao and Debbie Ryan, along with the entire athletic staff, would saw and hammer day and night until the structure is finished. Teamwork, you know.
Meanwhile, the "student-athletes" under my care would be tending hundreds of little chicks and studying how to ensure their survival. If a point guard doesn't have the dedication to keep his baby chicks alive, he doesn't have what it takes to play for UVA. If he can't grasp the science of raising a chicken, he won't make much of a student.
Once the chicken house is ready and the chicks are large enough to leave their incubators (assuming I would still have the job), the work really begins. When I was little, if I did something wrong, not only did I get the belt, I had to clean the chicken house.
Nothing beats shoveling manure to keep someone on the straight and narrow.
It's a filthy job that only gets filthier if left undone. If cornerback Mike Brown had to spend a night in the clink for alleged grand larceny during his shoveling shift, he would face a real mess upon his return. Brown would no doubt tell linebacker J'Courtney Williams that allegedly stealing credit cards isn't worth 38,000 square feet of unshoveled manure.
Likewise Groh might think twice before trying to recruit D students. A couple of days on his knees scrubbing the droppings-boards might teach Groh about high standards: a little work now saves a lot of trouble later. All UVA's coaches could pass on this wisdom, along with a strict lecture on schoolwork, seeing as how low grades earn athletes and their coaches more time in the chicken house.
If by some miracle I lasted the year as athletic director, chances are many of UVA's current athletic problems would vanish. Only true athletes would consider playing for a team that shovels caca everyday. No college or university would boast athletes with more strength of character than UVA– I'd bet my shirt on it.
If you want to bet, that is. My shirt would be covered with manure. As UVA's athletic director, I'd be as deep in the caca as everybody else. Just test me.