McCullers out as Columbus Crew president after 15 years
The vision Anthony Precourt has for the Crew has increasingly not included team president Mark McCullers, and today that resulted in the news that McCullers has resigned his post with the club.
After 15 years with the Crew, McCullers will remain on staff until April 30 but all his decision-making powers have been transferred to investor-operator Precourt, who will assume the role of president on an interim basis. On a teleconference, Precourt said the decision was necessary as the Crew begins to look toward its 2015 business plans – plans that would not have included McCullers, whose contract was up in November.
“As we concluded the offseason and all the good news that has come to light over the last few months, this is the time now where I’m starting to think about 2015,” Precourt said. “If we were to work with Mark to the end of his contract, that wouldn’t put me in position to have hired a new leader when our 2015 business planning was starting. Like with Robert (Warzycha being fired) and taking two months to conduct our coaching search with Gregg (Berhalter), I want to do the same thing to find our next leader. We’ll take a few months now to thoroughly and thoughtfully find our next level and let that person step into the organization and have a few months to be assimilated before 2015 business planning begins.”
The timing of the move comes two days after the Crew’s home opener, a 2-1 win against Philadelphia that gave the club its first 2-0-0 start in history. It is also a little more than three weeks since the team’s broadcast deal with Time Warner Cable SportsChannel was announced, a decision that meant only fans with Time Warner as their cable provider could access Crew games on television. It has not gone over well with fans, and the first question posed to Precourt was whether the deal was the reason for parting ways with McCullers.
Precourt did not directly answer the question, but later said the timing of the move was due to a busy offseason slate that saw a number of business initiatives put in place.
As for the Crew’s pursuits of making games more accessible, Precourt said, “That is something I’m getting more involved in. Yes, everyone at the Crew is aware of the reaction to the deal. We’ll have more to come on that subject at a later date.”
A native of San Francisco, Precourt arrived in Columbus after the team's media day Thursday but before Saturday's home opener. No meeting was planned with McCullers to discuss his future prior to his arrival in Columbus, Precourt said.
Precourt will solely handle the search for a new president. When hired, the new executive will report directly to Precourt on all business-related items. For much of his 15-year tenure with the Crew, McCullers served as both president and general manager. The next president will not be involved in any of the technical decisions relating to the club, which is what McCullers role has primarily been since Berhalter was hired as coach and sporting director last fall.
The search will involve a wide net, Precourt said, similar to how the Crew approached its coaching search. Precourt said he spent 10 hours on the phone yesterday already making calls about the position, confirming that he spoke with MLS commissioner Don Garber and MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott.
“The Crew has a lot of work to do in terms of improving its business operations to support what our primary goal is, which is to be a successful soccer club,” Precourt said. “Obviously we talked about stadium naming-rights opportunities and improving our season-ticket holder base and our corporate partnerships and other things I’d like to see improve with the Crew. This new person will be more of a business-oriented executive, and Gregg and this business executive would report directly to me.”