The Old Switcheroo: UMSL follows its usual playbook in reassigning a controversial administrator

John Garvilla was to restore calm and order when he was hired last year to replace Pat Dolan as athletic director at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Sixteen months later, Garvilla has left the athletic department to take a "temporary, full-time" position with the school's Division of Managerial and Technological Services. Heading up the athletic program in his place is Lori Flanagan, the school's associate athletic director, who becomes the third person to lead the department in the past two years.

News of the regime change came October 14, when UMSL Vice Chancellor Curt Coonrod sent a succinct, three-sentence e-mail alerting faculty and staff of the job shuffle. The university made a similar switch last year when it moved Dolan from the athletic department to the school's office of academic affairs, this following a St. Louis County jury's decision to award UMSL baseball coach Jim Brady $1.8 million in an age-discrimination lawsuit he brought against Dolan and the university. Dolan's immediate boss, Reinhardt Schuster, was also given a new job title and an increase in pay following the ruling. (See Chad Garrison's "Field of Screams," November 14, 2007.)

Rumors of Garvilla's ouster had been swirling since early this summer, according to UMSL faculty, when the school brought in a third-party company to survey the morale inside the athletic department. "It must have shown him in a pretty unfavorable light," speculates Larry Coffin, manager of the school's intramural programs. "After that survey, he didn't show up much in the office."

Coffin says Garvilla's management style rubbed many of his colleagues the wrong way. "If Dolan was accused of micromanaging, then Garvilla took it one step further. I'd call it nanomanaging," says Coffin, who says he was fired by Garvilla but later reassigned by an UMSL higher-up.

Garvilla's tenure also saw the resignation of popular women's soccer coach, Beth Goetz, and men's tennis coach, Rick Gyllenborg, who rescinded his resignation and was rehired. Baseball coach Jim Brady says he compiled a list of 30 to 40 complaints against Garvilla that he took to the university.

"His managerial skills were as empty as the hair follicles on his bald head," says Brady. "All he did was alienate people. The one positive I can say about him is that he really united the staff in our opposition to him."

Garvilla's voicemail states that he is now "director of special projects" with the Division of Managerial and Technological Services. He did not return calls for comment. University spokesman Bob Samples says Garvilla's employment with the school ends February 28, 2009.

 
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