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ASU expected to name Quinton Ross president, but not without needless controversy

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama State University’s trustees will name Quinton Ross as the school’s new president at a board meeting on Friday afternoon.

This will not be a surprise to anyone even remotely close to the university. Sources close to the board told APR early in the search process that Ross would be the frontrunner for the job if he decided to apply for the position again.

Ross was the runner-up for the job in 2013, when a groundswell of support for Gwendolyn Boyd pushed her into the position. Ross, at the time, was too closely tied to the old ASU leadership – a group that was being publicly roasted over allegations of fraud and mismanagement.

Those allegations were bogus, it turns out. They were trumped up nonsense, pushed by the governor’s office and Republican leadership, with a big assist going to former ASU trustee Joe Reed.

That bit of history is important in order to understand what’s happening at ASU currently.

Because on Thursday, published a story quoting two former trustees, Kimberly Rucker and James McNeil, who claim that Ross’s candidacy for president is a conflict of interest because, as a state senator, he also served on the committee that confirms nominated trustees.

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This is the last ditch effort to prevent the selection of Ross.

It is, quite simply, pathetic.

But not at all unexpected, given the history of bickering that has plagued ASU over the years.

I have witnessed this pettiness firsthand through nearly two decades of covering this university’s inner workings. It has come from both sides of a feud between two basic parties: Joe Reed on one side; John Knight/Donald Watkins on the other.

If you doubt the destructiveness and pettiness of this feud, allow me to convince you.

In the early 2000s, after school officials fired a football coach that Reed liked, he and others apparently concocted a scheme to rid the university of the replacement coach. That scheme included manufacturing NCAA rules violations against the coach and ASU in order to create cause to fire him.

A few years later, to prove this isn’t a one-way street, anti-Reed trustees at the school voted to remove Reed’s name from the school’s basketball arena. Before the trustee meeting was over, school maintenance workers had removed “Joe L. Reed” from the school’s Acadome.

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It has gone on like this ever since.

When former president Joseph Silver, as he was being pushed out, claimed he had uncovered improper contracts at ASU, there was Reed at Gov. Robert Bentley’s office making sure to push the narrative of corruption.

During this current ordeal alone, Reed has threatened lawsuits, played a role in Boyd obtaining attorney Fred Gray to represent her during her termination hearing, wrote a letter to ASU’s accrediting agency over her firing and wrote another letter over Ross’s potential hire.

There is, not surprisingly, a lawsuit floating around over the selection of Ross, and it will probably be filed in the near future.

It will be a waste of time and money. Taxpayer money.

Because there is nothing wrong with the selection of Ross. There was a committee. That committee established the parameters of the search process. It selected its finalists. It will make a recommendation and the board will choose the president.

A few months ago, Auburn University trustees selected a president basically in the dead of night. They flew the guy in to give him the job before anyone – the media, alumni, faculty – even learned of the possible candidates or finalists. And the guy they picked had recently been under investigation for financial misdeeds.

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No one is suing Auburn.

And stop it with the conflict of interest stuff. Prior to 2015, every trustee was nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate confirmation committee – a 14-member group comprised of 11 Republicans and three Democrats.

Over the last two years, the nominees have been made by a nominating committee comprised of a trustee, the faculty senate chairman, the SGA president, the alumni president, a local businessman, a county representative and a community member.

You know what? If Quinton Ross can manipulate all of those people in order to get a board that will fire a president and select him, he should be your president.

Honestly, I just don’t get the outrage over Ross.

He’s a three-time graduate of ASU and he clearly loves the place. He has a ton of business and political connections around the state, which should aid in drawing in donors and getting funding from the state.

It also doesn’t hurt that he’s got support from the other side of the aisle. Troy University president Jack Hawkins wrote a letter of support, as did the Republican chairs of the House and Senate education budget committees in the state.

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No one is saying he’d make the best president ever, but stop acting as if they’re trying to name John Knight’s barber as president. Ross is a smart, decent guy who cares about ASU and wants to see it succeed. That he’s a finalist, again, isn’t some travesty.

That the same old pettiness remains – that’s the travesty.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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