San Jose Earthquakes hire Tom Fox as President: The Right Direction?

San Jose Earthquakes
October 16, 2016: A rainbow shows up after a brief rainstorm during the Major League Soccer game between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya stadium in San Jose, CA. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

San Jose, CA – The San Jose Earthquakes have a new president, and the announcement has come as quite the shock. Dave Kaval has been the president of the club since 2010, helping them secure a permanent home in San Jose. As he was named President of the Oakland Athletics, many thought he would be on his way out in San Jose as well. Turns out those thoughts are correct, only the timeline seems a bit quicker than expected. Tom Fox will be the new President of the San Jose Earthquakes.

San Jose Earthquakes hire Tom Fox as President: The Right Direction?

As many could have expected, with the task of being the front man in the Oakland Athletics new stadium site search, and development, Kaval had his hands full. Even though he named Jared Shawlee as Chief Operating Officer, it seemed like with Kaval’s role diminishing, the Quakes were going to need to make some more changes. As the front office pretty much completes its full overhaul with this move, the question of, “Is this the right move” must be asked. We can’t answer that fully without analyzing Dave Kaval’s time as President.

Dave’s Time

Kaval was named president of the ‘Quakes in October of their 2010 season. Kaval’s big charge came in the form of making headway in getting a soccer specific stadium in the South Bay. it took him a little less than five years to make that happen. In the meantime, they packed out Buckshaw Stadium every home match, and made it one of the more interesting venues in the league. On the field, there wasn’t a whole lot of success, outside of 2012. But that should’ve been expected.

Kaval was never a soccer guy. He was always a baseball guy. He took the Earthquakes job as a resume builder for a young and aspiring powerful player in sports. He ran the Earthquakes operations much like someone would a baseball team, especially in how he and the front office constructed a roster. At some point it was going to have to give. The charade of non-soccer people running soccer teams had become impossible to pull-off in MLS. The league evolved, they didn’t. That change finally came with the Quakes as they hired Jesse Fioranelli. A real go-getter of a GM, Fioranelli has already changed the look of the Earthquakes in a big way. Of course, there is big credit to Kaval for making that hire. However, as he has taken the role with the A’s head on, he needed to step away from the Earthquakes. And it might benefit them in the long haul. However, the question remains as to whether Tom Fox is the right choice.

The (Un-)Fantastic Mr. Fox

Tom Fox is known in the soccer world as the man who sat at the helm of Aston Villa’s miserable end to their time in the Premier League. In one of the most crucial seasons to stave off relegation, thanks to the influx of the Premier League’s T.V. deal, one of the league’s most historic clubs went down. What’s worse is that Fox jumped before anyone else could get off the sinking ship.

In the Mercury News’ Exclusive on the signing of Tom Fox, they ran a bio. This is what it says:

“Fox started at Quaker Oaks three decades ago after graduating from Miami of Ohio. By 1988, he joined Gatorade’s sports marketing arm. Then he worked at the NBA, eventually opening the league’s China office. After also working at Nike, Fox rejoined Gatorade in 1999 as senior vice president, sports marketing.
In 2009, he became Arsenal’s chief commercial officer under CEO Ivan Gazidis, a former MLS deputy commissioner. After a successful stint in North London, Fox took over Aston Villa in 2014.”

The thing with this, is he has a lot of big name companies and teams on his resume, but nothing about really running a club. That’s what he’ll be charged with doing. But can someone whose experience in soccer is mainly on the commercial and marketing side of things really be trusted with power to help develop the soccer side of things in the team? That’s what they were going for, according to Kaval. This is what he said, in the same article from The Mercury News:

“But Fox’s hiring could change the Earthquakes’ landscape as they head into the summer stretch of the season with hopes of ending a four-year playoff drought.
‘Now we need to push forward and develop a stronger product on the pitch,’ Kaval said.
‘We’re not taking for granted the momentum we’ve created by building a new stadium.'”

If that is truly what the Earthquakes are looking to do, I just don’t know if Tom Fox is the guy to do it. Hopefully he proves people wrong. But with a look at his experience, and where most of it comes from, this doesn’t scream a great move on the Earthquakes part.