While Tulane’s search committee began interviewing candidates to replace athletic director Rick Dickson on Thursday, most of the attention was focused on a man who did not make the cut.
Arnie Fielkow, a former Saints executive and former New Orleans city councilman, became the center of attention after local radio personality Eric Asher released a 54-page document Fielkow wrote as he prepared for a prospective interview for the AD position.
Fielkow’s four-part “blueprint for success” had sections titled “The Vision,” “Tulane Athletic Priorities,” “Why Arnie Fielkow?” and “Action Plan.” It included an addendum with the names of about 90 potential football coaches to consider if Tulane decided to part ways with current coach Curtis Johnson.
The five candidates being interviewed in Atlanta on Thursday and Friday are Tulane deputy athletic director/chief operating office Barbara Burke, Auburn chief operating officer David Benedict, Baylor deputy athletic director Todd Patulski, Louisiana-Monroe athletic director Brian Wickstrom and University of San Francisco athletic director Scott Sidwell.
On Thursday night, Fielkow texted his response to not getting an interview from Tulane’s search committee.
“It was an honor and a privilege to be considered for the Tulane athletic directorship,” Fielkow wrote. “I was recently informed by the search firm that the search committee desired to only go forward with individuals who possessed extensive intercollegiate athletic backgrounds. I have a great love for both Tulane and the city of New Orleans, and while disappointed with the committee’s position, I fully respect it.
“In expectation of hopefully having had the opportunity to present my vision for Tulane athletics, I had prepared an extensive document titled ‘Blueprint for Excellence.’ This was previously sent to the search committee members, and hopefully they and/or the future AD might find some of it helpful as a new era of Tulane athletics begins.
“Tulane has a tremendous opportunity to excel athletically in the coming years, and given my affection for both the university and city of New Orleans, I wish the new leadership only great success.”
Fielkow, currently president and CEO of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, was executive vice president of the Saints for six years before being fired in October 2005 because of a disagreement about the handling of the team in the aftermath of Katrina.
Fielkow then was elected to an at-large position on the New Orleans city council in 2006. He was re-elected in 2010 before resigning in 2011 to take his job with the NBRPA.
His extensive résumé, though, included only three years in college administration.
As part of his blueprint for success for Tulane athletics, Fielkow presented his vision for where the program could be in 2025. The high points were membership in the Big 12 Conference, a Fiesta Bowl victory, back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA basketball tournament, a Big 12 basketball championship, a 2020 College World Series championship in baseball and a Final Four trip in women’s basketball.
He also wrote that if Tulane needed to hire a new football coach, the decision should come quickly to compete in an active search market. His connections to college and professional teams would prove invaluable, he wrote.
Johnson, the current football coach, is 15-32 in his four-year tenure and is 3-7 this season with two games remaining — at SMU (1-9) on Saturday and at home against Tulsa (5-5) on Nov. 27. The Green Wave is guaranteed to have its third losing season under Johnson and 13th in 15 years.
Even though Fielkow is not part of the active search, the release of his document and his list of prospective replacements for Johnson could create another potential distraction as the Green Wave prepares for SMU.
“I try not to let the outside forces or whatever (affect the team),” Johnson said after practice Thursday. “I just try to do what I do and keep more pressure on myself than anything else. I can’t worry about other things. I just have to worry about my team and getting a win.
“I don’t know. This team practiced hard and spirited as usual. This team is resilient.”
Johnson said cornerback Richard Allen (concussion) would miss his fourth consecutive game, with Donnie Lewis Jr. likely replacing him as the starter for the third time in a row. ... Johnson was more hopeful about middle linebacker Eric Thomas, who started the first nine games but missed Tulane’s win at Army last Saturday with a foot injury. ... Reserve defensive tackle Eldrick Washington likely will miss his fifth straight game with an ankle sprain.