Interview with Mack Rhoades

1. The first time you set foot on UofH campus, what did you see? I can answer that two ways. Figuratively when walking into the Athletics Alumni Building I was reminded of the unbelievable tradition, past history, the greats in all sports.

But if you want me to be candid what I saw was an immediate need for attention to our primary facilities, such as our football stadium, our basketball arena, etc. I knew that if we were going to be competitive we really needed to pay attention to our facilities.

With that being said, I saw great potential here. There was a period of time where this athletics program competed at a high level, as high of a level as anyone else in the country in a variety of sports. There isn't any reason why we can't get there and become competitive at that level once again. We have a great city, we have an unbelievable talent pool and we have a university that is growing in stature, not just within the state of Texas and Tier One, but nationally. Again, great promise, but promise is all that it is if you never make it happen. I am extremely thankful and blessed to work with a great staff and we are going to turn that promise into reality. It doesn't happen overnight, however, it takes some time.

2. When you interviewed with Dr. Khator for your job what were you thinking when you left her office? I thought that she was a visionary. She had great passion. We talked about having ‘fire in the belly' and when we both left the interview I knew she had that fire and I think she felt the same about me. I felt very comfortable in terms that this university is going to continue to make strides forward under her leadership. She is not going to have it any other way. I was also excited because she did a great job communicating the value that athletics brings to a university and that it was an important component of the university's journey forward.

3. How do you go about grading your coaches? What are the considerations concerning their accomplishments and handling of student athletes? We have a very detailed evaluation process in terms of our head coaches. We have six primary categories that we grade them on and there are various details within those six categories, but the six we talk about are: Academics. There are a variety of items under academics as you can imagine, but the main premise is having our student-athletes advance in the classroom (finishing with graduation) and becoming productive members of society once they enter the life after college. Business Operations. The finance and budget piece. How do our coaches manage their budget? How well do they do maximizing that budget, do they get the most out of that budget and are they being creative? Fundraising and Development. That's of course different for every program. Some programs have a greater capacity to fundraise versus another program. Public Relations. Are they getting out in the community? Are they meeting our donors and our fans and are they active in youth organizations?

Compliance. Of course there are a number of different elements with compliance. We will win, but we will win by the rules and that's one of the first conversations I have with all of our coaches. We will follow the rules and win with integrity.

The final is the coaching piece. That's the largest section of our evaluation because there are so many different components there. Hiring staff, managing staff, working and developing student-athletes, recruiting, discipline, etc., so there are probably 20 different elements under that one piece that we evaluate For us the evaluations are extremely important. They are tools for getting our coaches and their coaching staffs better. They are very candid and up front.

4. Universities are all about academia, coaches are all about winning games, what is a great Athletic Director all about? I think they have a great balance between the athletic/competitive side and focus on the student-athlete's well being. A great athletics director has to sincerely care about the development of the student-athlete. The athletics directory and staff have to work to put everything in place so the student-athlete has the best possible experience off the field and that we are developing them for life after college. There is no compromise for that… again, genuine care for our student-athletes. We also must provide the resources to be competitive on the field… the coaches, facilities, meal plans, housing, all of those things. I think the athletics director must have a very good business mind. You are running a business. In our instances you are running a $33M per year business. They need to be a visionary. They need to be organized and be able to layout a strategic plan. They also need to engage their staff to execute that plan. They need to be able to engage the community and fan base. You can't be successful sitting behind your desk or doing the work by yourself. You have be a great judge of talent, whether it's administrative staff or coaches. Finally they need to be tireless. This is a demanding job. The great athletics directors out there, in my mind, have all of those qualities. Finally they need to be tireless. This is a demanding job. The great athletics directors out there, in my mind, have all of those qualities.

5. What are the biggest challenges facing the new reconfigured Big East conference? The upcoming television rights deal for both football and basketball certainly will be extremely important for the future of the conference. The next issue, to be quite candid, is stability. At what point in time will all of this transition end, so you know who is in your league, who you are working with and how you will map out your future. In terms of stability, that issue isn't just facing the BIG EAST, it's faced by a lot of conferences right now. At some point in time we have to be able to say we are comfortable with the conferences and where they are at, so that will allow everyone to move forward. Right now, there is this defensive mechanism that is really putting leagues in attack mode. We aren't going to lose members, so we are going to add members to strengthen our league. When does that end and when is there finally stability?

6. If you could go back 1 year what would you change? I think the important thing is that you are always self-evaluating, always learning and always growing. For me to be the best leader that I can be for this athletics department, I need to grow to lead by example.

7. What are some of your thoughts concerning future scheduling? It's a different world for us here in the next year. There are certainly a lot of conversations and a lot of interest in our non-conference schedule. We will have to evaluate how we schedule depending on what we determine to be the strength of the BIG EAST Conference, and we expect it to be a very competitive league in football moving forward. We'd always like to play someone from the state of Texas, but that is easier said than done for a variety of reasons, both on our behalf and their behalf. That has been a difficult challenge. Currently in Conference USA we really looked at our four non-conference games and we felt like we needed at least one well-known name, very competitive BCS-league opponent. We wanted to always play an FCS opponent early in the season because it really helps us prepare for the upcoming year. The two remaining games we focused on playing similar opponents, opponents from similar leagues, such as the Mountain West or even an opponent from an AQ conference, but someone to challenge us and help us get ready for the road ahead. One difficult aspect is that we inherited some contracts, so we haven't had a great deal of flexibility. The one thing that I am opposed to is signing 2-for-1 deals. It's really hard on your program to go play someplace twice and you only get them at home once. We need to set up a situation where we are playing more home games than road games. You look at those successful Top 25 programs and they are playing a minimum of seven home games. Candidly, there was a lot of discussion about our non-conference schedule last year, but at the end of the day we are in our championship game, ranked No. 6 in the country. The most important formula is winning games.

8. What impact do you anticipate when the light rail opens up to UH? Certainly I hope for the city and the university that it's extremely positive. It's another method of transportation, a convenient one, to bring people to campus. With a brand new stadium, folks all over the city will have a chance to see our teams and our venues in a convenient fashion.

9. Will we have a naming rights contributor for the new stadium? Again, those are discussions we can't talk about publically. There is interest and yes, I would anticipate it, but at this point in time it's not something I can share.


Cougar Digest Top Stories