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February 2014: McCormick Place

The college football season is finally over, and the pros will finish up when the ice melts on the Delaware. It made news recently that the search for a new president of FAU is heating up as two prominent politicians have been named among the top ten finalists. Jeff Atwater and George LeMieux are both dedicated public servants, illustrated by the fact they are willing to take a job that pays only $345,000.

The Miami Herald reported that Dick Schmidt, a great FAU supporter, is wary of having a politician in that job, and we always respect his opinion because he used to pal around with our board chairman, and also his late father said we did a good imitation of the late Foy Fleming, whose brother helped get FAU started way back in the 1960s.

George LeMieux has been particularly roughly handled by the media. The Herald’s Fred Grimm even called him a “hack.” But that isn’t quite fair. A real political hack does almost nothing except what he’s told. LeMieux, as a top aide to former Gov. Charlie Crist, was known as the man behind the scenes, holding the fort while Crist hugged presidents.

Back on topic, keep in mind that Frank Brogan, former and highly respected president of FAU, has been accused of being a politician, but many forget he started as an educator. We know that for a fact because we interviewed him when he was superintendent of schools in Martin County back in the 1990s. He was considered one of the bright young men in the Stuart area, which he proved when he made it up to the majors.Also remember that by nature college presidents are also politicians, which was proved by Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, Dwight Eisenhower at Columbia and many others. Of the two politicians declaring for this job, only one, Jeff Atwater, spent some time at Notre Dame. And speaking of Notre Dame, don’t forget that its former great president, Father Ted Hesburgh, was such a consummate politician, always traveling for the public good, that he was often compared to God. When president of ND, they used to say “what’s the difference between God and Father Hesburgh?” The answer: “God is everywhere. Father Hesburgh is everywhere but Notre Dame.”

Back on topic – $345,000 is minimum wage for a campus job these days, but it is still enough to attract people who want to be dedicated public servants. In case the money is not enough, there are a few perks that add value to the job. You get to live in a real big house, almost a mansion, and you can do interviews in a library that is bigger than some people’s houses.

You also get into football games for free, and that’s important because the job at FAU has unusual challenges, the main one being to keep teachers from saying crazy things, and also deciding what the football uniforms should look like. The great Howard Schnellenberger is said to have designed their first uniforms, with white helmets. He is also widely credited with inventing the famous two-tone “U” which is universally identified with the University of Miami. This despite the fact that the University of Scranton is also known as “the U” – at least in Scranton. Their football coach is paid nothing, mostly because they don’t have a football team.

Anyway, somebody changed the Schnellenberger look at FAU. Recent publicity has shown the football team in dark blue helmets, almost a black and white change from the past, and while not ugly, it is hardly a way to build tradition. Back on topic. It is none of our business, but why do they publicize the salary being offered for a college president, especially at a state-supported school? Whatever happened to competitive bidding? In that spirit, we throw our helmet in the ring for this job. As a great American, and also a taxpayer, we will take this job for a mere $299,000. Admittedly unqualified, we will then find some great young educator who is willing to work for $250,000, and keep the rest as a lobbying fee. For $250,000 you get what you pay for, and you probably won’t get a politician.