An Interview With Mack

While attending this past Saturday's finale versus Tulane I had the pleasure to interview the Cougars ‘Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics,' Mack Rhoades, to discuss a number of issues his department is dealing with. The following is what he had to say as we sat at Hofheinz Pavilion during the Women's 67-51 rout over Northwestern State at the ‘David Jones Classic'

played before the football game;

Why were you given the title ‘Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics’ rather than just ‘Athletic Director’ like most universities?

The Chancellor (Renu Khator) wanted, in terms of the importance of athletics on this campus and my position in particular, it equal with the other vice presidents.

Can we get an update in terms of the demolition of the Rob and the beginning of the construction on the new stadium?

The targeted date is Monday December 3. They may begin some staging earlier than that and maybe not. That process will take about 6 to 8 weeks – to tear it down, move all of the debris out and then begin construction on the new stadium somewhere around mid to the end of January.

Will the football team play its home games at Reliant Stadium in 2013?

We haven’t officially determined that yet. We’re in negotiations with Reliant, Lone Star Sports Entertainment, SMG and the Texans and we’ve had great discussions. My guess would be that we’ll end up playing most of the games there if not all of them.

Was there ever a Plan B if the students had not passed the referendum to help fund the construction of the new stadium?

Quite honestly we weren’t 100 percent sure of how the referendum or vote would turn out. Our Plan B, in terms of financial models, was to go out and raise more money. My worry on that was the impact it would have had on the Hofheinz project and the renovation and the additions of the new men’s and women’s basketball facilities. If the referendum hadn’t passed and we would have had to raise more additional monies for the stadium, then that would have put this project on hold.

How is the Hofheinz project coming along?

We did the feasibility study and have had a lot of discussions and it’s our hope that one year from now we’ll break ground on it and that will probably be about a one year process, to be ready to play in a newly renovated Hoff in November of 2014.

With all of the conference realignment happenings and rumors, especially concerning the Big East, can you make any comments on how it all potentially affects UH?

In terms of conference realignment you’re almost afraid to say anything because the minute you do, or the minute you think you know for certain what may happen or what may transpire, it changes and it’s been so unpredictable as far as everybody knows over the past few years. Here’s what I do know – the Big East still has a great chance at being viable. I think there are some dominoes that still may or may not fall in terms of the ACC. Do they bring in someone to replace a Maryland and if so, do they target a Big East team? If they do, again – I think the Big East survives and I still think the TV partners are extremely interested and the Big East still has a chance to sign a robust TV agreement. What you don’t know is, is there going to be any additional movement? Does the ACC decide to just take a team? What’s the Big 12 thinking? Now all of a sudden does the Pac12 begin to think, ‘do we need to get bigger?’ All of that is certainly something I can’t answer at this point in time. I don’t think anybody can, but what we need to do is just, again, be prepared like we’ve always been. Control the things that we can control. We’ve got to get our facilities completed. We’ve got to make sure that we’re talking to the right people in terms of the landscape. Right now we’ve got great confidence in (Big East) Commissioner (Mike) Aresco and again – I think the Big East will be very viable.

Can you give us any comments on Coach Levine and the state of the football program and how hands-on are you as an athletic director with your sports programs?

We’ll evaluate the program thoroughly at the end of the year and we’ll look at everything – just like we do with all of our sports programs. I’ll be very thorough and very hands on in terms of the evaluation. Coach Levine and I will have a very candid conversation here at the end of the year and look at all of the circumstances – some that we can control and some that we can’t control. So you just look at all of that. It’s always been my philosophy that you hire the right person and then you go let them do their job. Now I will get hands on when need be and at this point in time it’s really going to depend upon the discussion that Coach Levine and I have in terms of how hands on I get, in terms of future direction. This season has been disappointing, no question. Coach Levine is more disappointed than anybody but right now I still have great faith in him and we’ll look to see what we need to do to improve this football program for next year.

What is your communication like with Dr Khator and how hands on is she with the athletic department?

I think Dr Khator is probably similar to how I operate. I think she hires people and she let’s them do their job. She gets involved if she needs to and has been a terrific chancellor to work for. She’s allowed us to do a lot of different things in the last three years in terms of moving this program forward and she’s given me the autonomy to do what’s best for this athletic department. 

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