The weather was idyllic and the Pacific Ocean beckoned, but the natural beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area was not what allured Washington Redskins pro scout Louis Riddick to take a cross-country flight. Riddick recently spent a week on the campus of Stanford immersed in an NFL program designed to enhance team personnel on their quest to become higher-ranking officials by training them in the nuances of football management.
Riddick, 35, is in his fourth season with the Redskins and was approached by owner Daniel Snyder and Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato about attending the seminar, which included presentations from NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, Hall of Fame Coach Bill Walsh and professors from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Riddick hopes to advance within Washington's front office and returned to Redskins Park with copious notes and handouts detailing everything from salary cap and stadium management to team building concepts and philosophies aimed at capitalizing on the growing globalization of pro sports.
"It was a heck of an eye-opening experience to see exactly how much stuff really goes on around a football team," said Riddick, who spent seven years in the NFL as a safety. "They covered everything from stadium naming rights to marketing and branding and the bottom line, and explained how important revenue sharing is to the league.
"After going through that for a week I'm excited just to get started again and try to incorporate a lot of that stuff into my own style and see how it works, because the people who were talking were all very successful."
This was the second year that the NFL offered the program, and each NFL team was allowed to choose one candidate. Those attending ranged from marketing executives to coaches and included former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, who is Tampa Bay's personnel executive. The NFL has sought measures to improve diversity within its management ranks, and while the program was not specifically designed to meet that goal it was attended by many women, blacks and Hispanics.
Riddick, who is black, said classes began at 8 a.m. daily and went past dinnertime, with sporadic 10-minute breaks. There were organized study sessions at night, where participants completed homework and discussed the lessons of the day. Stanford professors provided courses on "Negotiation Strategies and Tactics" and "Marketing Principles," while NFL officials offered primers on dealing with the media, salary cap management, player personnel development and leadership.
"It's a good program to give people a broad range of the whole business perspective," Cerrato said. "You get a perspective on the whole concept of the organization and for a young guy it's a good opportunity to go out there and develop relationships and be able to learn some things and get some ideas on how a total organization is run in every aspect."
Riddick's primary responsibility with the Redskins is scouting other NFL teams for potential free agents and future acquisitions. When he is on the road he also does some advance scouting on future opponents but is called on most to provide reports on individual players before and during the free agent signing period.
In the future, Riddick, who received a provost academic scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from there with a degree in economics in 1991, hopes to be on the other end of the process, assessing information and making decisions that will help chart the course of the organization. He said he plans to incorporate much of what he learned at Stanford into his own management style and is in the process of loading the various sources of information he gleaned during the seminar into his computer to put them into a format that he can draw upon as he advances in his career.
"In my own head I have an idea of where I'd like to be at different time periods," Riddick said. "In the next five to 10 years I am sure that at some point in time I'd like to be in a position where the decisions I make have a direct effect on an organization, so we'll see what happens."