Behind the Scenes of Cougar Football: Part 5

In college football these days there is no off season, and the epitome of this reality is too true for the Cougars first year Director of Football Operations, Chris Pezman. After trying to get a hold of him for nearly two weeks, the UH alumnus said, "yeah sorry I couldn't get back at you earlier but between traveling to Los Angeles (to deal with travel issues concerning UCLA),

 In asking what exactly the Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations does, he laughed and says, “Do you want the short, or long winded answer? Basically I’ve been tasked with handling the business side of the football program in dealing with everything from team travel to helping coordinate coaching appearances and everything in between. I’m not exactly sure what my daily schedule will be since this is my first year here doing this, but during the season my schedule will closely mirror that of the coaching staff’s because I’m here to help support their mission of winning football games.”

Although he doesn’t have any assistants working underneath him, the two time Southwest Conference Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll member says, “I’m basically a one man show but we do have two other people who work in parallel and we all work hand in hand.” Those two are Joe Alcoser and Ken McClintock.  Alcoser has been with the program for nineteen years as a player (1994-96), a graduate assistant on both sides of the ball and as Director of High School Relations. In his current role his job is to help in coordinating on-campus visits for prospective recruits while also aiding in the day-to-day operations of the football program.

This is McClintock’s first season in his newly created role of Director of Player Personnel and a position that really excites Pezman as he states, “One of the things that we (as a university) have that others don’t is the ability to sell the city of Houston. Ken is our first contact in player relations. For example, a kid comes in and gets enrolled in school and gets on a particular degree program. Ken will then go out and help find summer employment for these kids in their specific degree field, so that when they graduate they already have practical real world working experience. That way they are a viable commodity when they leave here instead of having to start over from scratch like so many college students do. Coach Levine recognizes that we have a great ability here at UH to sell the program to the city. At a lot of schools in remote places you might not have that opportunity for summer employment in a place that you’re most likely to live. Honestly, it’s a no-brainer and it’s a huge recruiting opportunity when we point that out to recruits that we have this program in place that, particularly with the parents, they see a huge value in. For example, If you go to Lubbock you’re not gonna have those summer job opportunities. You’ll have to go to Dallas or Houston or San Antonio whereas we have a built in network to get them jobs working through the summers in getting them ready for their post graduate life.” That reminds me of the NCAA commercial that states most students ‘will go pro in something other than sports.’

Pezman also mentioned another program that Coach Levine has put McClintock in charge of, “He’s also heading up a program where we’ll pair up alumni mentors with our younger kids for guidance. We have a huge network of people that we have the ability to tap into that a lot of other programs don’t have or use. That’s a huge advantage we have and I credit Coach Levine for having the foresight to see that. A lot of guys in his (McClintock’s) position are just used as ad-hoc coaches who coach the offensive line or safeties or wherever, whereas Ken really cares about the welfare of the student athlete.” Ken had been coaching in the high school ranks for the previous 12 seasons in Ohio previous to Levine calling him.

New stadium tidbits

While he’s not privy to all of the meetings taking place regarding the new stadium, which is scheduled to begin construction as soon as the 2012 regular season ends, Pezman brings a lot to the table in regards to facility construction and management, “Well, I was the Director of Operations at Reliant Park for most of the previous 11 years so I was there during the construction of one of the worlds’ largest sports entertainment complexes. So needless to say I have been intimately involved in massive construction projects in the past.”

While none of the decisions have been made yet as to the design layout of the new stadium, Pezman states that, “right now we’re in what’s called the initial programming phase in which we tell the architects things such as how many shower heads we need (for example), and what we’ll need space wise to accommodate everything, and from that they’ll design the stadium square footage wise into a theme or the look of a facility. The design phase which is the texture and look of the field is still being resolved but we have more than ample time to get this project completed. We’ve gone through the initial programming phase in which the architect has been selected and now we’re going back over everything with them so they’ll get an understanding of what we want and they’re working on what the theme is going to look like. Nothing has been settled as far as stadium layout, but as I mentioned before – anything is possible with time and money. For example, the University of Connecticut’s stadium was built in 90 days. That’s from the pouring of the concrete to the finishing touches. It all just depends on how much time you have. The more time you have the less money it takes and the less time you have the more money it takes.” For those who have been living under a rock, Manhattan Construction Company has recently been hired as the stadium builder with the architects being PageSoutherlandPage and DLR Group. The project is estimated to cost around $105 million and will be completed by the start of the 2014 season.

A Cougar we should all strive to follow

 After lettering for the football team from 1990 through 92 (in which he was named a captain on the 92 squad), and upon graduation (he completed his undergrad in economics) Pezman was a graduate assistant in 1993 and 94 before completing his Masters in Hotel and Restaurant Management in 95. In hindsight, that degree is probably the best thing that ever happened to him as he recollects, “college athletics is customer service which is what that degree is in. They correlate perfectly well and I literally fell into that (as he was too late in applying to the MBA program which he had originally intended to do). It was like the hand of God working,” Pezman said laughing.

Getting back to his history, after serving as an assistant to the Director of Athletics (Bill Carr) for two years, Pezman was promoted to the position of Assistant Athletic Director for Operations, which was a newly created position by the incoming Athletic Director – Chet Gladchuk (in 1997), “We have these facilities and we want to make money by letting others use them,” Pezman remembers the incoming AD explaining to him. “So with no experience, I went to work using our facilities as a money generating tool. We went from about a quarter of a million per year to over 3.5 million per year when I left three years later. I then worked for a sports marketing firm named Global Productions for about a year before joining Reliant Park during the construction process.”

This is the part of the interview that really impressed me about Pezman – that he had a plan for his future in his mid 20’s, “I left UH with the intent of always coming back. I realized that I really needed to get a better network and understanding of contacts within this great city. Basically I realized I had to grow more professionally. Working with the Texans as well as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo proved invaluable to me – being able to see the inside of two legitimately first class organizations are things that the university can emulate. What the rodeo does with its volunteer program is exactly what college athletic departments want to do and emulate with its donors. The rodeo has almost 20,000 donors that would do anything to promote and help them anyway they can and our athletic department is trying to do the same exact thing. We just don’t have the number of donors yet. I was fortunate to have a behind the scenes look at how they do it and hopefully we’ll bring that here to this university.”

Next week’s “Behind the Scenes” will be our final installment and will focus on the Student-Athlete Development staff (Academics), led by Maria Peden.

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