Rhoades had a vision for the program since his first day
UH Athletics Director Mack Rhoades sat down with The Daily Cougar to discuss the past, present and future of the program.
The Daily Cougar: How do you balance the long term with the short term goals that you have?
Mack Rhoades: I’m not sure I do a good job of balancing them. You can ask my staff. I want them all done all at once. It’s difficult because we’ve got to get a lot of things done and there’s not a lot of time to do them. You try to keep perspective, but I want the short term goals done immediately and the long term goals done pretty quickly.
TDC: Was it a goal of yours to have a commitment to more than the revenue generating sports?
MR: Of our original foundation certainly a part of that was gender equality and making sure we were really treating all of our sports the way that they should be treated. Everyone of our student athletes deserves to have a great experience here. The only way that you can do that is to be committed to all our sports programs. I think we’ve done a good job of that. The thing I’m really proud of is that all of our sports programs are getting better.
TDC: How important is it for you that athletes be students too.
MR: It’s non negotiable. One of the first things that I did was at a back to school orientation where we had all of our students athletes there. There were close to 400. They were seated in tables of 10 and I had one table stand up. My comment to the entire student athlete body was that those 10 right there standing, that’s how many of all of you that will earn a living in athletics competing and playing. So what are the rest of you 390 going to do? We said from the beginning, we’re not here to use young people. We’re here to help develop them.
TDC: What qualities do you look for in a head coach?
MR: Obviously we look at the technical aspects of it.The ability to coach in practice. The ability to coach in games. The ability to develop talent. Those things are all non negotiable. Passion. Energy.
This insatiable appetite to strive for excellence and win at the highest level. The commitment to doing it the right way, and just a great ability to communicate with young people. I think the special coaches are the coaches that coach beyond just the two dimensional.
There are three dimensional coaches meaning that they really connect with the student athletes — that the student athlete understands that that coach really cares about them off the court or off the field as much as they do on. And they’ve got this great balance of being able to be tough on a student athlete, hold them accountable and at the same time put their arm around them.
We’ve hired 10 new coaches since I’ve been here and I think you can ask the staff that’s involved here that’s involved in the hiring process — it’s pretty exhausting. We talk to so many different people. We take our time.
TDC: What would you do differently if given the chance?
MR: I think I could certainly do a better job of communicating with the masses of people. I’m not a big social media person. I don’t have a twitter account. I don’t have a Facebook. So maybe in those areas I could do a better job.
TDC: What was your vision for the athletics department when you first got here?
MR: We needed to start in terms of the infrastructure and put together a foundation, in doing that we reorganized the entire department. We developed some areas that weren’t developed and we really focused on student athlete well being.
Specifically you look at the different elements but one was certainly academically. We look back to last fall and what happened in the classroom.
Also, starting a leadership academy, making sure our student athletes get a well rounded experience. Not just in competition, but making sure that they graduate and that they’re prepared for life.
We started the philosophy building champions for life so student athlete development was a primary focus.Revenue generation: making sure that we built and organized an infrastructure to generate additional revenues. We restructured the IMG contract and sold more season tickets. One year we had the largest percentage increase in the country, raising scholarship money for Cougar Pride.
We raised more money than we ever have there. We also started some restricted fundraising in terms of fundraising for individual sports programs. Then really trying to get our arms wrapped around facilities. Our facilities are certainly not in great condition and they needed immediate attention. We put a plan together and with the (football) stadium we can begin to focus on Hofheinz and the practice stadium.
There’s been a lot of coaching changes. I really like where all of the programs are headed. You had a program like men’s golf that had won 16 national championships and disappeared. We hired a new coach. Jonathan (Dismuke) came in and did a good job and they won the conference championship.
Compliance was a huge area that needed to be addressed. We’ve implemented new software, new education for not just our head coaches, but for our entire staff. We’ve got a whole different monitoring process. We’re very comprehensive, so really we took every area of the athletic department and really analyzed it.
TDC: Who’s your NBA Finals pick?
MR: When I lived in Akron, I literally lived a half mile away from LeBron (James). My head says the Miami Heat. My heart say San Antonio. I think (Spurs coach Gregg) Popovich and that group of people do it the right way.