The Citadel’s new long-range strategic initiative and what it means for varsity athletics: The LEAD Plan 2018


Welcome to The LEAD Plan 2018

The LEAD Plan 2018 (also available as a .pdf)

I didn’t realize until recently that The Citadel’s new strategic planning initiative had been published. Maybe the announcement of its release was made and I just missed it (which is entirely possible). It appears to have been issued on or around December 12, 2012.

From the school website:

More than simply a document, this new six-year commitment to ensure the strong future of The Citadel, serves as the college’s map that all members of the college community can follow to realize strategic growth and innovation during the next six years.

The name of this plan draws from the core mission of the college, spotlighting The Citadel’s strong reputation for Leadership Excellence and Academic Distinction.

As we take stock of the last few years, The Citadel’s strategic planning empowered the college to face historic economic hardships and grow while other institutions of higher education were forced to cut programs. The Citadel has clearly navigated the new landscape and realized innovations. Innovation in curricula and program growth. Innovation in service to our students and families. Innovation in facilities. Innovation in developing regional partners in industry and the Lowcountry community. In true Citadel fashion, the college faces each challenge and emerges stronger.

From the introductory letter:

In the fall of 2011, a collaborative team at The Citadel embarked on an important journey to plan, shape and position the future successes of the college. During the past year, The Citadel conducted a campus-wide planning process that engaged the campus community in a discussion of the institution’s strategic goals and vision, culminating in The LEAD Plan, The Citadel’s 2012-2018 Strategic Plan to promote Leadership Excellence and Academic Distinction.

This planning document communicates The Citadel’s priorities and lays the foundation for a successful capital campaign that will propel the institution to new heights of academic and leadership prominence…

…the following eight strategic initiatives comprise the planning priorities for The Citadel:

ONE – Develop principled leaders in a globalized environment.
TWO – Enhance the learning environment.
THREE – Strengthen the college through institutional advancement.
FOUR – Develop the student population.
FIVE – Enhance the facilities and technological support for the campus.
SIX – Improve institutional effectiveness.
SEVEN – Ensure the college has the leadership and talent to accomplish these strategic initiatives.
EIGHT – Provide outreach to the region and serve as a resource in its economic development.

Later in the document, there is a reference to the financial setup of this plan:

Success of The LEAD Plan 2018 will be realized through the continuing partnership with The Citadel Foundation, which will provide the funding for the plan’s action items. In particular, The Citadel Foundation will operate a six-year capital campaign that will be aligned with the priorities of The LEAD Plan and its primary lines of effort.

This initiative is the successor to the “Blueprint”, which was The Citadel’s 2009-2012 strategic plan.

In March of 2012, I wrote about some aspects of the Blueprint, among other things, in an ambitious, overly long essay about The Citadel’s future as an institution (with a focus on varsity sports). Now the college has announced its plans for the next few years, and beyond.

I’m not going to rehash the entire LEAD plan. I would encourage anyone interested in The Citadel to read it. It’s not that long (35 pages).

I want to discuss a few things in the plan that are directly related to varsity sports at the military college. They are noteworthy, and newsworthy as well. Of course, everything in the document can be said to have relevance for athletics in some way, and the reverse is often true as well.

Just to list two examples, one macro, one micro: one of the school’s stated goals is to maintain a graduation rate for all cadets of 75%. That’s a major statement. Another goal, obviously not as sweeping but important in its own sphere, is to upgrade the organic chemistry and physics laboratories.

These are the types of things that would matter to many prospective recruits (and their families).

However, since this is a (mostly) sports blog, let’s look at items that are immediately associated with the department of athletics.

Below are certain sections of The LEAD Plan 2018. They are denoted in italics. I have some brief comments following each section.

First up, initiative #3…

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #3: Strengthen the College through Institutional Advancement

In the new higher education environment defined by economic challenges and constrained resources, The Citadel must double its efforts to identify alternative funding sources and advancement opportunities. During the next six years, The Citadel will take steps to expand fundraising and grant-writing expertise, increase the financial independence of The Citadel’s athletics program, and enhance regional and national promotion of the institution.

The Citadel’s athletics program will increase its financial independence and generate 100% of the revenues needed to eliminate the need for campus support from unrestricted gift funds.

*** Objective 3.2 Increase the financial independence of The Citadel’s athletics program

Athletics are an integral component of educating principled leaders, fostering institutional loyalty and spirit, and maintaining a vibrant campus community. The institution will execute several actions designed to strengthen both the athletics program and the college during the next six years.


– Create an Athletics Excellence Fund and offer naming opportunities

Create additional fundraising activities

Key Performance Indicators

Increase membership in the Brigadier Foundation by 25%

Increase new endowed scholarship funds by $5M

*** Objective 3.4 Expand regional and national promotion of The Citadel brand

Expanding the marketing infrastructure and programmatic initiatives will help promote The Citadel brand more prominently across the region and country.


– Expand the college’s marketing strategy to include a more competitive brand positioning that spotlights The Citadel generally and in support of key programs

– Develop measurable outreach tactics that target student prospects for high-priority programs

Key Performance Indicators

– Increase applications by 15% by 2015

– Increase website traffic by 5% by 2015

– Achieve positive brand awareness feedback in surveys

I’ve highlighted some of the more interesting goals/expected outcomes.

Increasing the size of the Brigadier Foundation is a must, as I think everyone would agree. Increasing membership by 25% will be tough. It is not impossible. However, the goal in the Blueprint for membership growth wasn’t 25% — it was 35%. The Citadel did not come particularly close to meeting that standard.

To reach an increase of 25%, the foundation would need to add about 450 new members. For a small school, that is not going to be easy.

In addition to the membership drive, the school wants to have an enormous increase in endowed scholarships for athletics.

While objective 3.4 is not specifically about the department of athletics, I included it here because I believe athletics is a key element to the “branding” issue, an idea reflected throughout the strategic plan.

As an aside, shooting for a 5% increase in web traffic strikes me as a very modest goal.

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #4: Develop the Student Population

The Citadel will become the national institution of choice after the federal service academies for academic and military preparation for careers in the armed services.

The Citadel will develop the mix of its student populations to reflect diversity goals. The Citadel will develop and refine its scholarship and financial assistance programs to support its recruitment goals.

*** Objective 4.4 Expand student diversity and sustain an enrollment of 2,135 in the Corps of Cadets

Citadel graduates work, serve and reside in diverse environments. The prospects for their success as principled leaders are enhanced by exposure to diverse perspectives, interpretations and points of view. Supporting that diversity enriches the educational environment.


Recruit quality cadet-athletes—who will add to the institution’s culture of diversity within the Corps of Cadets—by funding full athletic scholarships in all sports

– Expand need-based funding

Key Performance Indicators

– Increase need-based funding to $2 million by 2018

Offer 100% of full athletic scholarships

Well, now this is something to ponder. Does the school intend to fund the maximum number of scholarships in all sports? That’s certainly what it seems to say. I suppose it could mean that it “just” means any cadet athlete on scholarship would be guaranteed a full ride, but that’s not how I am interpreting it.

Maxing out on scholarships is a very laudable goal. It would be a great boon to most of the “Olympic” sports; the one that most immediately comes to mind is actually rifle, which is reportedly only funded at 42% of its maximum scholarship allotment (1.5 out of a possible 3.6 schollies).

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: The Citadel could conceivably win an NCAA title in rifle. If that happened, Big Red would soon have its day flying atop the Statehouse dome. Adding a couple of rifle scholarships would go a long way to making that dream a reality.

It’s an expensive dream, to be sure.

I was surprised when reading the plan to find that basically the entire undergraduate component of “developing the student population” was devoted to increasing funding for athletics scholarships.

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #5: Enhance the Facilities and Technological Support for the Campus 

*** Objective 5.3 Enhance athletic facilities

Athletic facilities represent a core element of the campus educational and co-curricular experience and will be renovated to include more competitive facilities and technological innovations.


Renovate the Altman Center

Renovate McAlister Field House and Vandiver and Seignious Halls

Build practice volleyball and basketball facilities

Key Performance Indicators

Complete athletics renovations by 2018

None of this is a big surprise. I don’t recall a clamor for a practice volleyball facility, but I can certainly understand the need.

Strategic Initiative Supporting Outcomes, #7: Ensure the college has the leadership and talent to accomplish these strategic initiatives

*** Objective 7.2 Expand the number of qualified personnel able to coach, teach, train and mentor units and individuals across the Four Pillars

The Citadel’s Leader Development Model integrates the academic, military, physical and moral-ethical pillars of The Citadel Experience. Several actions are central in driving further integration of these domains.


– Develop a summer coaching and mentoring workshop for tactical officers

Create a series of endowed athletics positions to include the director of athletics as well as head coaches of football, basketball and baseball

Key Performance Indicators

Endow a strategic athletics position by 2015

– Develop and implement a summer coaching and mentoring workshop for tactical officers by 2014


Ah, this is what I call the “Ivy League” model. What I mean by that:

– At Princeton, Bob Surace is not the head football coach. He is actually The Charles W. Caldwell Jr. ’25 Head Coach of Football. That is how he is listed on every Princeton release.

– Gary Walters is not the director of athletics at Princeton. He is The Ford Family Director of Athletics.

– Mitch Henderson is not the men’s basketball coach at Princeton. He is The Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green ’40 head men’s basketball coach.

You get the idea. It’s not just Princeton, either. Many Ivy League schools have endowed positions. Harvard has them for numerous sports, including tennis, wrestling, and…squash.

That’s why when Ivy League schools issue press releases about their varsity teams, they often look like this one from Cornell:

Andy Noelthe Meakem-Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, has announced that Kent Austin, the Roger J. Weiss ’61 Head Coach of Football, has accepted the joint position of vice president of football operations, general manager and head football coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, effective immediately.

While this would result in a little extra work for the staffers in Athletic Media Relations, having an endowed position would obviously do wonders for budgeting.

Incidentally, some larger schools endow athletic scholarships for specific on-field football positions. At Southern California, every starting position on the football team is endowed in perpetuity, including placekicker and punter.

I think it is clear that as far as The LEAD Plan 2018 is concerned, varsity athletics is a top priority. What the school wants to do is very interesting. I think it’s laudable. It will also take a great deal of money.

Raising that kind of cash, particularly the focus on endowments, is going to be an enormous challenge. However, I don’t think it’s a “pie in the sky” situation. Having said that, does anyone know a billionaire or two who might be willing to help out?

The Citadel administration appears to have some big ideas, and has chosen to make them public. I am glad to see this. Potential donors need to know what the long-term plans of the school will be. Now, they should have a very good sense of where the college wants to go.

I am on record as favoring an expansion in varsity sports offerings at the military college, specifically in sports that could appeal to a wider geographic student demographic (lacrosse being the most obvious example).

It could be argued, with considerable justification, that the school first needs to shore up support for its existing squads. However, I think The Citadel’s fundraising should be two-pronged: focused on improving what it has now, and opening new vistas for the school. That is true both for the overall scope of the college and the department of athletics, and seems to be what The LEAD Plan is all about.

Another point in favor of adding varsity sports is that the current phase of conference realignment may give The Citadel some new opportunities. While there is concern for where the school may wind up in the NCAA landscape when the dust has settled, I think it’s possible that The Citadel may find itself in a revamped Southern Conference with a much larger percentage of schools that are “like-minded” (relatively speaking).

It is also possible that The Citadel may have a chance to join a new league, or relocate to another conference. For that to happen, the school would need to have a sports portfolio in line with other potential league members. I’ve pointed out before that The Citadel has fewer varsity teams than many other schools that are “peers”. In my opinion, that needs to change.

Change. It is a word that can send shivers down the spine of many an alum of The Citadel. I know that is the case for me.

However, while change is inevitable, it can be shaped to fit the overall mission of the institution. Now supporters of the college have a better idea of how the school’s current leadership intends to do that. It will take time, hard work, intelligent planning, and a lot of resources.

That is what excellence is all about.

One Response

  1. Very well written and thought out as usual. I always enjoy your take on things and appreciate your insight.

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