Thursday, January 29, 2009

WorkPlace 101: Is Nepotism Always Bad?!?

You might remember Craig Robinson as Michelle Obama's brother who bungled his way through that introduction on Night One of the Democratic National Convention. Thankfully, dude is a far better coach than he is a public speaker, as the fine folks at Oregon State are quickly finding out.

Robinson's ascent to the top is almost as impressive as Barack's. Just a few years ago, Robinson was using his Princeton degree on Wall Street, gettin' caked up. Then he decided to quit the Corporate Negro Hustle and pursue his first love: Basketball. Robinson, who played hoops at Princeton, used his contacts to land him a low-paying assistant's gig at Northwestern. After paying his dues and earning a rep as a stellar recruiter for six years, Robinson parlayed this into a head coaching job at Ivy-league doormat Brown University. Success followed quickly as Robinson immediately became league Coach Of The Year in his first season, and lead the team to a school record 19 wins last year.

Like most ambitious career-climbers, Robinson seized the notoriety of his famous brother-in-law's rise to fame and cashed in with head coaching job in a major conference last Spring, being named the new coach at perennial Pac-10 whipping boy, Oregon State. While it should be noted that Robinson was the school's 4th choice, even he acknowledged that he traded in Barack Obama's name to get himself an interview. In effect, he's gone from poorhouse to penthouse in just 2 years.

The Beavers play in a very challenging conference, with such high profile teams as Arizona State, UCLA, and USC. OSU hadn't won a conference game in two seasons, and started the season in auspicious fashion by losing to Howard University, a team my 6th grade Panthers could probably beat. Since then the team has righted the ship, and has already defeated USC and beaten Stanford and California on the road.[1] And thanks to the free pub that being an in-law of the Leader Of The Free World brings, the Beavers are already assembling an outstanding recruiting class for next season. After years of being everyone's favorite homecoming opponent, the Beavers are finally on the upswing.

Whether OSU rides Robinson's name and notoriety to March Madness or not remains to be seen, but more than anything else, this is an example of when nepotism actually works well.[1] Not that Obama did anything (other than be married to Craig's sister) to directly get Robinson hired, but by being resourceful and opportunistic, Robinson found himself a niche and exploited it to his benefit. If you can win at Brown, Northwestern, and Oregon State, you clearly know a thing or two about coaching. Maybe I need an "Obama" on my resume.

Good work Coach Robinson.

Question: Is it wise to use family connections to advance your career, or would you rather succeed on your own merit? Have you ever gotten a job because of who you were related to?

[1] They also beat the crap out of Howard in the 2nd game of a very strange out-of-conference home and home series. Can you sports aficionados tell me if this has ever happened before? Playing the same OOC team twice in one season? Odd scheduling quirk.

[2] Yeah, I realize this isn't classic "nepotism". This started out as a sports post that I knew nobody would read unless I added a twist. Answer the question anyway.

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