Foul Ball

Baseball coach Jim Brady has been fighting his bosses in the UMSL athletic department for seven years. And he thought colon cancer was a pain in the ass.

The bulk of the seven years' war between Brady and Dolan preceded the current statewide budget crunch in Missouri's state university system. Still, athletics wasn't the only UMSL department in which fiscal constraints and conflicting priorities caused friction. One veteran professor who asked not to be named in this story depicts the employee-relations atmosphere on campus as "nasty and brutish" after years of cutbacks and the simmering feud between former Chancellor Blanche Touhill and staffers who opposed the construction of Touhill's Taj Mahal, a $50 million performing-arts center.

Though the center was paid for out of the state's capital budget and by donors, opponents were perturbed that Touhill had set up an ongoing fund of $1 million per year to help cover operating expenses. That money, they claim, could have funded pay raises for faculty and staff or improvements to other programs.

Since 1980, UMSL enrollment has hovered around 12,000. Increasing costs and stagnant enrollment figures led to budget wars that had an effect on morale and retention throughout the campus. Tim McBride, associate professor of economics, public policy and gerontology, says faculty voted with their feet, many taking advantage of early-retirement incentives. Indeed, since 1999, 48 of the school's 317 tenured and tenure-track faculty members have left.

Jennifer Silverberg
Brady poses with UMSL athletic director Pat Dolan earlier this season, after Dolan presented him with a plaque commemorating his 500th career victory.
Brady poses with UMSL athletic director Pat Dolan earlier this season, after Dolan presented him with a plaque commemorating his 500th career victory.

Additionally, says McBride, many feel that UMSL doesn't get its fair share of the university system's resources: The St. Louis campus serves 23 percent of the four-campus system's students but receives only 12 percent of the budget.

"We have an equity problem within the university system. UMSL gets a disproportionately low share of funding compared to other campuses," McBride complains. "Morale is quite low. It's a combination of a lot of factors: the state budget problem, the inequity problem and the fiscal mismanagement on this campus. There wasn't a salary increase this year, and last year it was 1 percent. What we're fighting for is to be treated like one of the other four campuses. We don't feel like we're being treated that way. There is definitely a poor-stepchild feeling, as you have with these hyphenated campuses in other states."

UMSL spokesman Robert Samples would seem to agree with the perception that the school doesn't get its fair share. Noting that the state Coordinating Board on Higher Education recently reported that the university system as a whole appears to be receiving adequate funding, Samples says that the CBHE also found that UMSL "may not receive an adequate share of state funding from the UM Board of Curators." He adds that Touhill told state legislators in 2001 that "she felt UMSL was severely underfunded in comparison to all other state colleges and universities."

Tim McBride isn't sticking around to see whether things change. He's leaving for a faculty position at the St. Louis University School of Public Health.

In 1990, before the problems at UMSL started, Jim Brady was found to have colon cancer. "It was attributed to me being a typical macho coach who liked to chew tobacco," he recalls. "I was addicted to the stuff. The surgeon told me, 'You combine your diet with all that chewing tobacco, Jim, that turned into a sewer down there.'"

The cancer had reached Brady's lymph nodes but no vital organs. Through surgery and chemotherapy, he recovered.

"I remember sitting there in the hospital thinking, 'Please, God, if I can just get out there and compete, I'm not going to be all about 'winning and that's the only thing that matters.'" I just want to get out there and compete because I enjoy this so much,'" he recounts.

That line of thinking lasted until he returned to the dugout.

"We were playing Central Missouri State. Walking out on the field for the very first time, as soon as I put my foot on the field, it was: 'Gotta win.' It's about winning. That passion to win and not let the other team get the better of you, it just kicked right back in."

That passion runs deep. Brady's grandfather is in the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame. Brady's own playing days started early, though, much to his grandfather's disappointment, soccer took a back seat to basketball and baseball.

Brady is aware that the turmoil he has endured at his job spilled over into his personal life. "I bet the place has taken five years off my life, the stress that I've suffered," he says. "It was a definite factor in the breakup of our marriage. My ex-wife will take accountability that she probably should have handled some things better, but ever since this current administrator has taken over, she said I would come home and be so mean and hateful. Apparently I was taking out my frustration on her by being short with her, ignoring her. I became cold and distant. It probably reached a point that she felt she couldn't take being treated like this."

Brady's former wife agrees. "I wanted him to leave that place many years ago," Vicki Brady says. "Let's put it this way: He was not very nice for some time because of the stress and the crap at work, but ultimately it was his choice to stay. He's still there. I can't believe it. I begged him for years to leave there. It was disruptive for the family."

« Previous Page
Next Page »