February 8, 2023

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Marchiony, a Good Man

The Kansas University Athletics Department, the University, college sports, the National Collegiate Athletics Association and Lawrence all are losing a top individual and valuable asset with the upcoming departure of Jim Marchiony as Associate Athletics Director.

KU Athletics officials announced this past Thursday Marchiony would be retiring in July after 16 years at KU. His leadership positions in collegiate athletic programs throughout the country cover 40 years.

Over these years Marchiony has earned the respect of those in the news business for his professionalism and the manner in which he has carried out his responsibilities.

During his KU years, Marchiony was handed the task of explaining the actions, decisions and motives of those in senior positions. Far too often Marchiony was the individual explaining why a particularly sensitive matter was handled in a certain manner when the Athletics Directors should have been facing the media and/or other interested parties.

He was loyal to the KU Athletics Department in presenting the “company line” when the AD and others remained behind the scenes rather than being out front to take the heat or criticism.

It’s understandable why Marchiony was asked to perform in such a manner. Those serving in senior positions realized the media/public would have far more reason to accept, understand and tolerate the explanations of Marchiony as a straight shooter who had been placed in a difficult position rather than self-serving and protective explanations by his superiors.

Perhaps it’s wrong to refer to policies and actions of past years but it should be pointed out the Ernest Quigleys, Dutch Lonborgs, Bob Fredericks, Monte Johnsons and Wade Stinsons —- all former KU athletic directors, were out front in good times as well as bad times. They didn’t rely on hired hacks to do the dirty work which has become the accepted practice in recent years.

Marchiony was not a “hired hack” as he ended up being the most respected and valuable spokesman for the athletic department. His departure will leave a big hole in the athletics department as well as the entire school.

It’s puzzling why senior officials such as the chancellor, the athletics director, the Endowment Association chairman, Alumni Association chairman, chairman of the Board of Regents and/or others such as the Chamber of Commerce president do not speak for their organization rather than have others fill in for them….in good times as well as bad. The chairman of an entity is supposed to be the leader, responsible for the actions of the organization.

As one KU official explained the situation, “the higher you climb up the flag pole, the less likely you are to know what’s really going on on the ground.”

This situation also may play a role in why there isn’t more of a community-wide involvement by KU and the KU Athletics Department officials. Granted, times have changed and there may be more responsibilities but in past years top KU officials were a part of the city, active and genuine in their community interests.

Such an environment helped build a unique environment in Lawrence with a very special “town-gown” relationship. Chancellors and city officials in other cities used to ask, “How do you create and generate such a sound, workable and pleasant town-gown environment in Lawrence and at KU?”

Past KU chancellors have told this writer the most enjoyable times they had experienced in their educational careers were the years they spent in Lawrence and at the University.

It WAS indeed a special time with far more openness, communication and involvement between the university and community….and the state.

No one was hiding or not accessible.

The University and the Athletics Department and other organizations need to return to past years when the true leaders were the most sincere, believable and effective spokespersons for their organizations. They had plenty of help but they were leading the parade, not hiding in the background.

They all could take a lesson from Marchiony. The school is not too big to try to be friendly, open, honest, sincere, helpful and deeply involved in the community.

The current town-gown relationship needs to be improved. Some more Jim Marchionys would help.