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Kleinlein: Exceed expectations
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After being introduced at the new athletic director at Georgia Southern University, Tom Kleinlein, right, chats with head baseball coach Rodney Hennon, left, and Vice President for Business and Finance Ronald Core after a press conference in this Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 file photo. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    It’s fair to say that Tom Kleinlein, who took over as athletics director at Georgia Southern in January, has a clear vision.
    Kleinlein put together a committee of GSU faculty, staff, coaches and members of the community to help draft a strategic plan for Georgia Southern athletics. The plan, a brief, eight-page document, was distributed to members of the GSU athletic department this week.
    It was one of the first orders of business for Kleinlein.
    “I’ve always said that when I come into a leadership role as an athletic director, pretty much the first thing I was going to do is offer a vision and mission statement within the first couple of months on the job,” Kleinlein said, “so everybody clearly knew the direction we wanted to go.”
    The mantra? Exceed expectations.
    The document offers five objectives for the department — academic distinction, athletic distinction, develop leadership, serve as a source of pride that unites all of the “true blue,” and maintain a fiscally responsible department.
    Kleinlein expects everybody on his staff to use the document as a reference, but he also wanted to release it so all of the followers of the program can see the vision of the department.
    “If an alien dropped down here tomorrow, and you had five minutes to say what Georgia Southern is about, we’d give them this,” Kleinlein said. “This is what we stand for. It’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to serve, we’re going to be leaders, we’re going to have academic distinction, we’re going to have athletic distinction and we’re going to serve the university’s mission. That’s what we do.”
    When the committee was meeting, it gave Kleinlein an idea of how the department operates day to day. There were plenty of positives, but they weren’t all positive — though Kleinlein didn’t go into specifics.
    “Was everything that came out of the room positive? Absolutely not,” he said, “because I don’t think any organization, if you went through a process like this, would be 100 percent positive. People sat in the room and said, ‘We’re not doing very good at this. We’ve got to fix this if we want to get to national distinction and we want to serve the university.’ We began to talk through those processes.”
    One theme was taking care of the fan base.
    “If we’re not good, customer service-oriented people around here, then why would people want to come? If people don’t want to come, how are we going to get the revenue to provide the opportunities for the student athletes? We had a number of discussions about doing this better or doing that better,” Kleinlein said. “I want to make a decision that fits our fan base and fits our culture here, and that grows us, but doesn’t forget about where we came from.”
    The document isn’t written in stone. Kleinlein expects it may have to grow with the program.
    “I think initially, this is kind of the direction we’re going to go over the next five years,” he said. “We could come back three years from now and say, ‘You know what? We’ve got to scrap this. This isn’t working.’”
    Some of the areas targeted in the document have already begun to show themselves in the community.
    “The fans will see more student-athletes involved in the community,” Kleinlein said. “They’ll see more recognition of all the kids that made (3.0 grade point averages). They’ll see a more comprehensive website that talks about what our kids are doing on the field and in the classroom and in the community. They’ll get to see a bigger picture of how we affect the university as a whole, not just how we compete.”  

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.