What were some of your achievements in your first year as Athletic Director?
In marketing we’ve made huge strides, and I didn’t think that was too hard to do. We attacked breaking a single season attendance record on a Wednesday. We did an umbrella community outreach program called Gauchos Give. We started two new tickets programs called Tickets to Care, which means we’re going to give away a boatload of free tickets to charity groups for every game.
We have group strength ticket packages, where for a dollar you can get 10 or more into any game. We also started the Cinco Pack, which was a mini-plan to highlight the North Carolina game, but we carried it over to women’s basketball. We also started the Gaucho Way, which was more of a sportsmanship initiative.
On the marketing stuff, we’re still not done. We’ve got a new logo, and marks, and brand identity, which we’re working with the bookstore on. We’ve got a new merchandising program, coming in to sell on our Web site and at our games an official line of Gaucho sports gear.
On the facilities side, I think we’ve made great strides. I came in with one pure goal from the campus when I got hired; it was to figure out the pool situation. So, we worked with the students and the Recreation Center and settled on the site of the pool. We’re now working on the pool and whatever else will be back there, and I think an indoor practice facility for basketball has to be part of that equation.
What are some of the things you have on tap?
We’re going to have a new banner system in the Thunderdome. We don’t honor our history very well right now. We don’t honor our student athletes that have fought and produced in that venue. Next year we’re going to launch six inaugural legends of the dome. … We’re going to pick the six, and every year after that we’re going to let the fans vote on one to two new ones. If you look at the end lines of the Thunderdome where the scoreboards are, we’re going to make from the top to the bottom a banner or a drape of that legend.
So we’re going to have two men’s basketball, two women’s basketball, one women’s volleyball and one surprise. It’s short of retiring jerseys, but I think this is a better way to do that.
We’re going to really attack the Locos and work on every student as a Gaucho Loco. We’re going to give every student who wants to come to games a free shirt and call everyone a Gaucho Loco. It’s the Cameron Crazies. It’s not just a hundred crazy; it’s the whole student body.
What were some of your best experiences in your first year?
The women’s soccer shootout against Cal Poly in the Big West Tournament. I thought that was pretty special. Paul and the young ladies deserved it, and I could sense that. That was one of my favorites.
Two, the men’s Cal Poly match here was my second favorite; the one where we tried to break the record on a Wednesday. … Turning the corner I walked down the path and the bikes in the bike racks were overflowing. It was such a buzz to get in. … What I remember about that and what really sold me on the passion of the students and community on our soccer program was [that] it was a 0-0 tie. And the Locos and the students sang the whole time. It was like a European soccer match. Our students and our fans stood and cheered for every corner kick, for every breakaway, for every great play for the whole game.
The third one was women’s basketball beating Cal Poly from behind on what looked like a Cal Poly team possessed. We were on a quest of cutting down nets, and the seniors deserved it. That, to stand on the court watching them cut down the nets. … Those are my three top ones.
What were some disappointments or things that could have gone better?
Men’s basketball. Baseball. [Pause] Our men’s basketball was in a growing stage, with a lot of youth. We just never got our momentum until the end. … Consistency of growth is something that’s needed in men’s basketball. I’m not upset that we were in eighth for a long time and ended up in fourth. I don’t care about any of that. I want us to become the Gonzaga of the Big West where we distance ourselves — where we do the things in fundraising and facilities enhancement, plus our coaches recruit and have better gameplans than the other team, so we can get out there in front like we did in women’s basketball 15, 20 years ago. And we maintain it. And we’ve got a coach on the women’s basketball side who will not settle for anything less than that. In men’s basketball we need to find that consistency.
Baseball, because of Omaha and all the regionals and superregionals, has more TV on it. So does men’s basketball. So our bread’s buttered on the NCAA revenue sharing. And our conference is that way. Those two need to get consistently to that one-two spot.
But we’re hanging around… we’re not bottom of the barrel. But nothing in Santa Barbara is second fiddle anywhere. We are not second-rate in any way shape or form, so why, in athletics, would we ever try to be that?
What are some challenges you have ahead?
The campus had a great campaign for Santa Barbara; I think in 2000 they launched this umbrella comprehensive campaign for us to fundraise … for a wider vision of the campus. And athletics I think had a few things as a part of that. But Dare to be Great is our injection into that plan. Our battle cry will be “Dare to be Great.”
The difference there is the execution of funding for our student-athletes scholarships. We have something called the Gaucho Fund or the G-Fund, and a comprehensive facilities plan where we build and enhance our facilities as we get donations toward them. … We’ve gotten some great feedback from some early donors we’ve talked to about helping those projects. So going from collateral and campaign messaging to execution and delivering is the one thing I want to make sure we’re doing next year.
We’re redefining our brand to try to get some consistency.
We have no kids program … but we’re going to have one for the whole athletic department. You always need an icon for that, and that’s where Olé [the new mascot] comes in.
One of the big things I want to make sure we do is engage the community to get to our games more. I want to make sure we have better attendance from men’s soccer to women’s basketball to women’s soccer, all the way through. We’re also going to open Saturday hours in the ICA building, because we have a ticket office downstairs, so people can come and get their tickets in advance instead of just walking up to the game.
On the whole, would you consider the year a
Yeah, no doubt. From setting ourselves up to launch and do great things, yeah. I do think it was a great success.
I will be honest with you: It was more of a cleanup job than I thought. But we are set up [so that] the community and the campus for the most part thinks we do athletics right. We are a window to this university, and we will never take that lightly.