JDU: Chico Caldwell

This week’s “Just Do You” features FVSU’s new athletic director, Dr. Percy “Chico”Caldwell. In June, the former interim director of athletics at Miles College hit the ground running with a laundry list of things to do. Caldwell’s mission is to get the Wildcats’ athletics department in tip-top shape for the upcoming season.

FVSU’s public relations specialist Tauheedah Shukriyyah Asad met with the administrator to find out details about his plan to take Wildcat Sports to the next level.

Tell me about your background in athletics and what led you to this position?

I played two years of basketball and football at Miles College. After my sophomore year, I had to make a decision between the two and I chose basketball. I’ve always been attracted to leadership. As a basketball player, I was a three year captain. Before graduation, my coach identified me as someone who should get into coaching, which was already one of my dreams. I ended up going into the military after college, but when I came back I was offered an assistant coaching position at my alma mater. After a year, I took over as head coach and my career really started to take off.

I left Miles in 1980, took a job at Livingston University and from there I took a head job at South Carolina State University. I became AD and head coach at West Virginia State University. It was at that time that I realized I needed to do something about my educational goals. I received a master’s degree while coaching in Birmingham at University of Alabama. It’s very difficult to get a Ph.D. and coach, so I had to make a major decision.

After a good talk with my wife and kids, we moved to a place we’ve never lived before because of the graduate assistantship they had for minorities. I received my Ph.D. at Iowa State.

What position did you have before coming to FVSU?

I was an administrative consultant for athletics, while working for President French at Miles College. It’s been well documented that they are currently under a four year penalty for major infractions. I was called in to help manage the requirements for the probationary period. I was there for about eight months. At the time, they didn’t have an athletic director, so they asked if I would act as the interim until they were able to hire an AD.

You’ve been FVSU’s athletic director for a little over two months, what were your immediate goals?

The day I arrived to sign my agreement, FVSU had just completed their NCAA compliance audit. The NCAA officer was meeting with Dr. Rivers to give the “end of audit” review. The president asked that I sit in on the meeting to hear first-hand the audit findings and what we needed to work on. My first goals were to work on the recommendations.

Tell me about your plan of action for the department?

I have what I call a “30-60-90 day process” whenever I accept a new job. The first 30 days is spent getting to know the internal operations – every office and individuals overseeing a department that impacts athletics. I have a rapid, rigorous schedule of appointments to meet with the director of those offices to introduce myself and ask questions about concerns and how we can improve performance. The second 30-days is an external review. I begin what I call “friend-raising” which is fundraising while establishing relationships. And the last 90 days is really getting to know staff. Unlike most top-level administrators in athletics, I have a philosophy. I never bring people (i.e. coaches) with me. I’ve always believed in coming in and looking at the staff already in place.

I don’t make the assumption that just because I’m new, they can’t work with me or somehow they’re not good enough to be at this institution. I think that’s wrong. It’s tough because when you come in new, everyone has to adjust to you and there’s always resistance to whatever way it was before. I believe in giving staff adequate time to adjust to who you are and your management style.

At the Faculty/Staff Institute you talked about how college athletes are different from other students. Now, do the coaches and staff stress the importance of academics and setting high standards for student athletes.

Under my administration, we do. I value the graduation rate and that’s one thing we really have to work on because retention in athletics is just as important as it is to the university as a whole. If graduation rates dovetail too low, it could be tied to funding eventually. For us, if we don’t retain student athletes we don’t build champions. If we have athletes who stick around for one or two semesters and then they’re done, we can’t build teams.

What kind of things can we expect from the athletic department this upcoming season?

Well that’s an interesting question to ask since I arrived in June. I’ve only heard about what happened in all sports last year. I’ve had a chance to watch a little at volleyball practice and a little of football. The football team was voted 3rd in the conference so I feel good about that. Whenever you’re in the top three, you have a good chance of winning the championship. I do know that we have a very good football staff. So this first year I’m kind of like the fans. I’m looking forward to seeing what coaches do and how they put together game plans on the fields and on the court. I’m excited about it.