Thursday, May 19, 2005

Marquette’s Trustee Losers

It’s not a good time to be a member of the Board of Trustees at Marquette University. The nickname fiasco, in which the Trustees refused to return to the popular “Warriors” nickname and instead decided on “Gold” is fresh in everybody’s mind. The Board rescinded the decision to go with “Gold” but the impression of hapless incompetence wasn’t wiped out.

But not all Trustees have been harmed equally. The following have, for various reasons, been the big losers — the people most clearly and vividly associated with this monumental fiasco.

Ann Zizzo — Again, Just Which Agency Was it that Had the Edsel Account?

Ann Zizzo runs something called The Zizzo Group, which is one of the hottest marketing and public relations firms in Milwaukee.

Correction, was one of the hottest marketing and public relations firms in Milwaukee.

When Marquette announced that “Gold” was going to be the new nickname, she explained that a great brand could be built around that name. That’s “Marketing 101” she said. And more: “You’re going to see opinions and attitudes change as the Gold develops and as we put out into the marketplace the future of what Gold is.”

Apparently, you have to make it to Marketing 102 to learn that you don’t launch a major brand without some test marketing, polling, focus groups . . . stuff like that.

And what course do you need to take to learn that what sounds like a good idea right now ought to be thought about for a few days — or a few weeks?

It’s hard not to agree with The Badger Blogger who concludes “I wouldn’t let her anywhere near my business after hearing this rationalization for what they did to this once prestigious university.”

If Zizzo is lucky, she will live this down within a few years. But if she’s not, this fiasco will become one of the legendary blunders in the history of marketing.

John Bergstrom — The Ron Ziegler Award for Defending a Position that Will Soon Become “Inoperative”

Ron Ziegler was the hapless Press Secretary of Richard Nixon who announced and defended statements that later had to be retracted and labelled “inoperative.”

After the “Gold” nickname was announced on May 4, 2005, a firestorm of criticism erupted. In an obvious attempt at damage control, Trustee John F. Bergstrom came to Marquette on Saturday morning, May 7, to defend the decision to a group of (mostly) students at the Alumni Memorial Union.

Bergstrom managed to seem both inept and ineffective (to us) and arrogant (to an alumna who attended the meeting).

He insisted that “Gold” would be built into a splendid brand, along the lines of “Green Bay Packers” and “Nike.”

Barely four days later, “Gold” had been dumped by the Board of Trustees.

John Stollenwerk — Jumping into the Breach to Defend a Position Your Comrades are Abandoning

One Trustee who clearly had some reservations about “Gold” as a nickname was John Stollenwerk. He wrote an e-mail to a friend saying that the decision was a bad one, and needed to be “rescended.”

The friend leaked it to talk show host Mark Belling, who read it on the air on Monday afternoon, May 9.

The following morning Stollenwerk responded with another e-mail — sent to Mark Belling and to Marquette’s Development Office, “clarifying” his position.
Mark,

I am traveling this week but wanted to take a moment to respond. [. . .] shared a private correspondence of ours in which I expressed a private opinion. He deemed to make it public to embarrass me and Marquette University. With friends like that who needs enemies? I fully support and voted yes on the Marquette University Board of Trustees’ decision to:

1. Not go back to the name “Warriors”
2. Change the name from “Golden Eagles”
3. Change the name to “Gold”

In my private comments to Mr. [. . .], I stated: “I hope they rescind this decision regarding ‘Gold’ . . .” in reference to my concern with the process wherein we did not engage all interested parties in this name change. I believe that we should make every effort to do this. The name to me is not nearly as important as the process which should clearly reflect our Jesuit Catholic values.

Sincerely,
John J. Stollenwerk
President and CEO
Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corporation
Note the “logic” here. Stollenwerk “supports” (note present tense) the decisions of the Board of Trustees — including the change to “Gold.” And when he said the decision should be “rescinded” he didn’t mean it should be rescinded, he was just expressing a “concern” about how the process “did not engage all interested parties.”

Barely 24 hours later, the decision to go to “Gold” had been rescinded.

Wayne Sanders — Starting a Crusade that Turns into a Fiasco

Wayne R. Sanders should be a hero here. He is the gutsy alumnus and Trustee who got up during the May 2004 graduation ceremonies and announced that he would pay $1,000,000 to Marquette if the nickname was changed back to “Warriors,” and an another alumnus (unnamed) would chip in another million. Although Marquette quickly turned down the money, the Administration announced they would reopen the issue.

Unfortunately for Sanders, gutsiness isn’t the same as skill at political infighting, and he was outmaneuvered and beaten on the Board. Even worse, he apparently eventually voted to abandon the “Warriors” nickname, and to embrace “Gold.” At least, the Administration announced that the Trustees’ votes were unanimous on both issues, and Sanders uttered not a peep of protest.

Thus the Wayne Sanders who was a real Warrior in May of 2004 became just another impotent Trustee in May 2005.

What Is it With the Trustees?

None of these Trustees is a bad person, and none is stupid. But all failed Marquette in this case. Some combination of group think and “team spirit” distorted their actions. Somehow, they felt it was in Marquette’s interest for all the Trustees to present a “united front” and unanimously vote for something they didn’t believe in (doing away with “Warriors”) and for something that turned out to be fabulously stupid (adopting “Gold”).

The honest and open expression of honest disagreements would have served the University better.

And now, the Trustee who is also the President of Marquette University.

Rev. Robert Wild — Allowing Yourself to be Hustled by Race Hustlers

According to Fr. Wild, he did indeed favor a return to “Warriors” when Sanders first raised the issue. So what dissuaded him? He talked to a small group of Indian tribal leaders who told him they would be offended if Marquette went back to “Warriors.”

By the time Wild talked to them, it had already been decided that Marquette would not use an Indian mascot nor Indian imagery. But the tribal leaders said the name “Warriors” could not be separated from previous use of Indian imagery.

As reported by the Associated Press:
Among those advocating a return to Warriors — a nickname used by 27 universities across the country, including Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee — was university President Robert A. Wild.

In conversations with American Indian tribes and bands over the last year, however, Wild realized it was impossible to divorce the nickname from its ugly past.

“We’re dealing with a human dignity issue, and that’s real basic stuff for a Catholic and Jesuit university,” Wild said.
The supposed “ugly past” was Willie Wampum, a cartoon caricature the use of which was discontinued in 1971.

But Wild knew about Willie Wampum in the early fall when, according to him, he was in favor of changing the nickname back to Warriors. And the notion that “Warriors” is “offensive” wasn’t immediately obvious to Ray DePerry, Marquette’s rather suspect “Native American Spokesperson.”

Only when the tribal leaders found that they could bully Marquette did they finally decide that they would veto “Warriors.”

We don’t view Wild as personally terribly politically correct, but it’s obvious that he’s not up, intellectually, to dealing with the politically correct people in Marquette’s Administration, nor with politically correct victim groups like the Indians.

Wild told the AP the following about the name change:
It seemed like a bright idea at the time. When we saw where we were headed with Warriors, we said, “Look at what Syracuse has done. They went from Orangemen to Orange. Hey, one of our oldest traditions really has been our school colors, blue and gold.” We had the Golden Eagles. We had the Golden Avalanche when we had a football team. We tried to tap into that.
In reality, the whole imbroglio has made Wild look naïve, inept and ineffective. This will overshadow all his other actions as President at Marquette.

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