McConnell, meet the C of C circus


I am not saying I told you so.

Just saying the first sentence of my column following Doug Wojcik's official introductory news conference in May of 2012 at TD Arena included the words "odd hire" and "red flags."

Now the College of Charleston head basketball coach reportedly has been suspended for yelling at players too much and too personally. His job, at best, is on the line after a lengthy investigation.

And a school older than our country still hasn't learned from past mistakes.

Lesson 1: Try to avoid an odd hire.

Lesson 2: If you make an odd hire, carefully monitor red flags so trouble doesn't get out of hand and embarrass the university.

Here's the explosive summer scenario for the Cougars' basketball program:

Gradually declining home attendance.

Many fans and players upset with the sometimes abrasive outsider head coach, partly because he lacks the remarkable people skills of his famed predecessor.

One school president on the way out, another on the way in.

The Wojcik mess?

No, the College of Charleston's awkward leadership transition eight years ago to the day.

Bobby Cremins was hired as head basketball coach on July 3, 2006.

But only after Tom Herrion, who had to follow the legendary John Kresse, was sent packing with an 80-38 record. Herrion was given $787,000 to leave (before former Cougars assistant coach Gregg Marshall took the job, stayed for a day and then returned to Winthrop).

Lame duck president Lee Higdon was on vacation at the time.

Now it's déjà vu all over again at the summer camp circus on Meeting Street.

Glenn McConnell, a student of Southern history, must recognize that poor judgment tends to repeat itself if not adequately addressed. McConnell has been on the job as College of Charleston president only since Tuesday. He seems to understand the power of athletic department success born of smart decisions.

"I want the athletics here to be a consensus builder in two ways to the student body and also to the community," McConnell told Post and Courier reporter Amanda Kerr. "I want the community to feel a pride in the College of Charleston and support it whether their interest is in golf or it's in basketball or baseball or sailing. We have a diverse program here."

Did he say diverse?

A president looking for a new basketball coach and trying to unite a school and community might consider former Cougars and NBA player Anthony Johnson. He just happens to be a black Charleston native that interviewed for the 2012 opening at his alma mater.

Otherwise, McConnell is about to learn that athletic challenges can quickly make political jungles seem tame. Pro sports, even at the minor-league level, can humble the richest business types.

College athletics have turned wise school presidents into public fools.

The College of Charleston's rookie president can start progress by forming a solid athletic advisory committee when big decisions come up. It might include Kresse and associate athletic director Laura Lageman and a few representatives of the board, faculty and student body, but should certainly reach outside the school to sharp former athletic directors and administrators.

That way you don't let overrated consultants make questionable decisions that fracture the fan base and break the bank.

Wojcik, 50, is 38-29 in two seasons, the last of which was the College of Charleston's first in the Colonial Athletic Association. In the standings and in the stands, the Naval Academy graduate deserves to be graded on the curve for the step up in competition.

The task at hand is healing the concerns of fans, players, recruits and parents. This while dancing with athletic department deficits that nag most mid-major athletic departments. The deficit was $1,550,770, according to USA Today's latest 2014 study of school revenues.

How does a school with so much red ink let a maroon basketball situation get so out of hand that it might take $1.2 million to get rid of Wojcik or lots of healing to keep him?

How do athletic administrators not smell some of the smoke before their basketball offices are ablaze?

How can you say you were not warned?

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff