1. What are some of the marketing plans this fall to help generate interest in the football and basketball programs, and what are some of the ISP Marketing's special promotions upcoming this season?
DM - We plan a very aggressive campaign---mail, radio, television and billboards beginning the early part of August. We have had student athletes calling alums to renew season and individual game tickets. This effort has been of some help in increasing our ticket base, but it has also been a very good public relations initiative. Even when those who are called may not purchase a ticket they have been impressed with the effort and the conversation with the student athletes. We look for goodwill as well as selling. Already we have sent thousands of pieces of mail regarding season tickets and have made hundreds of phone calls.
I am also working with ISP to develop an Art Briles Radio Show for the fall. The concept is a one-hour show with comments by the coach and then for call-in's with questions and comments by the fans. My reason for pushing for this initiative is to get out information regarding the team and to utilize as a marketing vehicle to sell season tickets and promote the football program.
We will take a similar approach to basketball in terms of mailings, radio and television. We will begin this campaign even before the football season is completed.
I have also invited the 1976 football team back to campus to honor them at halftime. This is the team that Art was a part of and I thought this would be a good way to recognize former players, bring them back to campus and get them more involved. Celebrating tradition and former athletes' participation at UH is very important to me. We will bring a team back to honor every year in both football and basketball.
Obviously, our best marketing tool is always our play on the field.
2. Could you please give us an update on the Cougar Pride program, and have your expectations for the first year of this program been met so far?
DM - The Cougar Pride program is going well. I feel very good about the progress. The idea is to get more people involved and to not only emphasize large gifts, but to get alums and the community to give back to the program, even if it may mean giving a nominal amount. It is important in order to develop a grass roots effort and a much broader base of support. We still need many more involved and will continue to tell the story of need and how the dollars are to be used-----every former athlete an alum should give. We are working on developing a culture of giving back. The purpose of providing an education for young people and to participate in sport at UH is a very good cause. We are not any place close to where we need to be, but we will continue to ask for everyone's help in reaching our goal of three million dollars within the next three years---we will achieve our goal. We are on the right track.
3. As the lead AD in C-USA, do you feel like you are in a position to use your experience to make a difference in our negotiations for positioning for the future, and do you think C-USA is in a good bargaining position?
DM - My efforts will be to put UH in the strongest position possible for any realignment that may occur in the future. Our best strategy is to get our program healthy so that we may be a more desirable conference member regardless of what conference that ultimately may be. Our main objective is to look at whatever options may be available, which primarily include making the Conference USA even stronger than what it is today. There will be lots of speculation for the next several weeks, but no one really knows what will happen until we look at all aspects of realignment including television and bowl opportunities and what institutions seem compatible---much thought and conversation will be taking place with our conference members over the next several weeks to discuss ways and means of strentghening Conference USA.
4. How do you think your experience at University of California has helped you in your current position at UofH, and why did you take this job when there were other high profile jobs available?
DM - The job at Cal was essentially a program that needed a tremendous amount of attention. When I accepted the job the program was on probation, had serious financial problems---poor attendance and no fund raising arm---the faculty was clamoring to de-emphasize sports and we had antiquated facilities. It was nearly a complete rebuilding job. When I left for Miami we had a strong fund raising program, we were out of debt and had a healthy reserve, the faculty gave much greater support to the program, we had improved facilities, most of the Olympic sports were either endowed or very close to it, and we had very good coaches in place and were winning in football and basketball as well as the Olympic sports. We went through some very tough times, some tough decisions had to be made and now when I look back at the overall health of the program I feel very good about the roll of the team I put together in getting the program back to national prominence and remaining in the Pac 10. Unfortunately, when I left and went to Miami some of our very best coaches left almost immediately thereafter and football began to go down hill. The football coach that was hired last year seems to be doing a good job---coaching makes a difference----basketball and the other sports are in good shape.
I accepted the University of Houston position because of Art Smith and his expression and that of our Regents that they desired getting our program back to a much higher level with greater respectability and my desire to make a difference in what everyone around the country considered to be a struggling and dysfunctional program---lack of winning, severe financial problems, attendance at football and basketball at an all time low, coaches and administrators using the program only as a stepping stone, poor continuity in almost every position within the program and no broad based fund raising program---annual funds being near non-existent. To do this job right is going to continue to require great energy, difficult decision making and careful thought about not only the present but the future of the program. The rewards can be very fulfilling if we will all work together and evaluate on a daily basis our progress. We can only achieve greatness with an unselfish desire to work together---that I learned a long time ago. It was true at Cal and at Miami and it is even more essential here at Houston. When we get the Cougar back on its feet there will be enough credit and pride for everyone.
I have been asked by some of our alums if they can encourage me to remain in my position through my contract period, which has a number of years remaining. I have no thoughts of retiring and plan to remain to see us through any conference adjustment that may occur and until we get our football and basketball program back on the right track.
5. Conference realignment is the talk all over the country. So, how do you like UofH's chances when the domino's all fall, and do you have a short list of preferences for how you would like for it to play out?
DM - I have tried to answer this in part in question three. To reemphasize the earlier point. The matter or realignment has slowed, which is good for us in that it gives us more time to get our football and basketball programs in better shape and to make us more attractive in Conference USA as well as possibilities for the future. We will pay close attention to the issue—it is important.
6. Tulane has stepped up big and decided they would try to lead an effort to challenge the BCS, your thoughts on this action?
DM - The President from Tulane is acting on his own. I speak not for our conference, but frankly, I like what he is doing. There needs to be a shakeup in this area. I hope he can make headway and call attention to the inequity now present in the situation. At the same time we need to help ourselves with a stronger program---and we will do that.
7. The student body remains a weak factor in attendance at football and basketball games. Do ya'll have a plan earmarked for the students and getting them involved?
DM - The best way to get the students and the alums to attend games is to have a team that is well coached, and plays hard and smart for the entire 60 minutes. We will do that. We have 9,000 students who live in the Woodlands area. They have to have a reason to come back to campus---that means exciting, winning football. We do have a number of initiatives to promote interest among the students---giveaways, etc.. It is also a good sign that we will have more student housing on campus this year. Becoming a more traditional campus---more students on campus, etc., is a good thing from our standpoint. I am hopeful that more housing will be on and around the campus in the future---in the meantime "just win baby."
8. Please tell us about our new President and how he will interface with athletics here at UofH.
DM - I met and had lunch with Dr. Gogue this past week. I of course do not know him well as I had not met him prior to his being named as the final candidate, but my initial reaction is that he will be supportive and has indicated he wants me to remain at Houston and to continue in our efforts to improve graduation rates, do a good job of managing our resources, increasing our self-sufficiency through gate receipts and fund raising and abiding by the NCAA rules. These are all currently goals of our department. I will continue to be a part of the Presidents Cabinet, attending his regular weekly meetings and will report directly to him. We look forward to his arrival on campus and will do all we can to help make his time at Houston a success.
9. When can we expect to see the endzone facility built and other
improvements to Robertson and Hofheinz Pavillion take place?
DM - The end zone project and improvements on Hofheinz are both very desirable projects for our program to grow and to modernize. While we have a good idea and vision for these modifications, both programs have been struggling---so our first priority is to dramatically improve both of these programs and for them to become much more stable. We also need to improve our overall fund raising efforts and results.
10. Could you tell the Barrick Nealy story to our members here at CoogFans? What all was involved in his leaving?
DM - Barrick Nealy was not happy about our continuing to recruit quarterbacks and felt that he wanted to be in a place where he felt confident he would be the starter. We are all sorry that Barrick decided to leave the program, but perhaps it will be better for him and for us in that he did not feel comfortable in competing for the starting job at Houston. We all wish him well.
11. What would be your best guess at how realignment will play out specifically concerning the BE and C-USA? Do you think that Banowsky and Tranghese have an open communication toward putting a power conference on board?
DM - It is still too early to answer in a definitive way. Lots of conversation is occurring, but nothing has happened yet. Tranghese and Banowsky do have a good open relationship and while changes may take place they will be more deliberate and open. We do have a consultant working for the conference and we are having frequent conference calls to exchange the latest information.
12. What are your top 5 goals in the coming year?
DM - Our first goal must be to get our football program healthy. A great deal of attention will go toward that. Secondarily, basketball must get better. Third, our fund raising efforts will be very intense and we must use this year in establishing a much stronger support base. Fourth, our graduation rates in all sports must improve and especially in football and basketball. Fifth, to utilize our resources in the best possible way so that all sports within our department can maximize their potential.
Dave, thanks for the interview, and I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that we at CoogFans appreciate your efforts and think you are the person that can make a difference here at UofH. We feel like Cougar Pride is a giant step in that direction. From all of CoogFans, a giant vote of confidence for all your hard work.