Lananna’s jump from Stanford, where the cross country team is a five-time national champion, to the unsuccessful program at Oberlin surprised many of his colleagues, according to The Chronicle. “Mr. Lananna stunned track fans around the country … when he decided to leave Stanford to take the job at Oberlin. He was leaving the pinnacle of Division I for the bottom of Division III,” The Chronicle reported. “Even though the news has been out for months, some other coaches … are still amazed to see him wearing an Oberlin polo shirt.”
Oberlin’s administration hopes that Lananna’s celebrity in the track world and his proven capabilities as a recruiter and program-builder will turn its sports teams into athletic competitors. According to The Chronicle, prior to accepting the position, Lananna set certain conditions that required the board of trustees to show an increased commitment to improving athletics at Oberlin.
“He wanted a cooperative relationship with the admissions office, so that his work with coaches on recruiting more aggressively wouldn’t go to waste,” The Chronicle reported. Lananna also wanted Oberlin to hire an associate athletic director so that Michael Reilly, his assistant from Stanford, could join him. According to The Chronicle, “Reilly would oversee the small details while … Lananna focused on just three things: finding and nurturing coaches, raising money and revitalizing recruiting in all sports.” The board of trustees agreed to Lananna’s conditions.
According to The Chronicle, although Lananna is no overnight fix for Oberlin’s athletic woes, Oberlin administrators hope he will quickly set the athletic department in a new direction.
Oberlin’s commitment to improving athletics confirms that, although some colleges are criticized for their strong athletic recruitment policies, failure to recruit any athletes can be detrimental to the institution as a whole, according to The Chronicle.