SPEAR: "An important hire; we need stability"

THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO RECENTLY ANNOUNCED the naming of Dr. Charles "Chuck" Staben as its 18th President, and he will take office on March 1st. This is a crucial hire for Idaho, which seeks stability at the helm as Dr. Staben becomes the third President in a ten year span. GVN talked with Idaho Director of Athletics Rob Spear to get his thoughts on the hire and what it means to Idaho athletics.

GoVandals.net recently sat down with University of Idaho Director of Athletics Dr. Rob Spear for an exclusive interview to discuss Dr. Charles "Chuck" Staben being named President of the University of Idaho. Dr. Staben will take office on March 1st, and will be the 3rd President at Idaho in the last 10 years (plus three interim presidents). Clearly the expectation is that he will bring an era of stability to Moscow, which would affect all aspects of the University, including Vandal athletics.

PAT HAUGE: The Idaho SBOE just appointed a new president at the University of Idaho, Dr. Charles "Chuck" Staben. Since you were on the selection committee, can you tell us a little bit about our new President?

Charles Staben, Idaho's 18th University President.
ROB SPEAR: "The number one attribute that he's going to bring is that he's extremely intelligent. He has a tremendous research background that will be a benefit to the University of Idaho, because what this community and this University needs is to be at the forefront of economic development. There's no better way to create economic development then through the research activity of this institution.

"He's going to come across very bright, and because of that he portrays a level of confidence that will be invaluable as he positions this University within the state, and within the political environment of this state and state board of education. Given his research background, he's a very analytical person. He's going to use a lot of data to make decisions."

PH: Do you have a feeling for what kind of role Dr. Staben expects athletics to play in his vision for the University of Idaho under his administration?

RS: "He hasn't been on campus, and I've had no one-on-one meetings with him. But I know that he believes it's an important part of a University's image. He's willing to work hard to help improve our programs. Not only to provide them with quality experiences as athletes, but as students as well.

"So he's very open to seeing what we need facilities-wise, scholarship-wise, and funding-wise."

PH: How do you think his expectations and policies towards athletics compare to those of Idaho's past presidents -- Dr. Tim White and Dr. Duane Nellis?

RS: "Too early to tell. It's really too early to even make that comparison.

"But I'm certainly optimistic, especially since Dr. Staben is coming from a University , as you know [the University of South Dakota], that is in the process of building a new Events Center."

PH: How important was this hire for Idaho? How important for athletics?

RS: "Well, you could probably argue it was the most important hire in the University of Idaho's history because we do need stability. It has been one of the most frustrating things for me – this president is the 6th president [three presidents and three interim presidents in the last ten years] I've worked for since I've been the Director of Athletics. Every time you have turnover, and a lack of consistency, you have to resell your vision for the Program.

"And that's where we are again.

"I have a document in my office that I see every day that shows that we have been talking about an Events Center since 1969. Then we developed a long-range capital development plan in 1971 that shows an Events Center. Then it was updated in 1997 and it shows an Events Center. Then it was updated in 2007 and 2011 showing an Events Center.

"It's time to get this thing moving.

"In 2007 we came out with our feasibility study for a 6,000 seat arena that would be a 180,000 square foot facility. Unfortunately, the price tag at that time was $70 MILLION, and the University, quite frankly, did not have the appetite to pursue it.

"Before President Nellis left, he convened a task-force that is chaired by Rich Allen, a great alum and along with his wife Sharon a great supporter, to develop a plan that looked at the feasibility of raising private funding for an Events Center. We went to work with our facilities personnel to coordinate and hire a firm to do preliminary planning, which is what we're currently doing right now, then develop a general plan, and engage private sources, to fund such a center.

"We were tasked with keeping the costs under control.

"So what we have come up with is a facility that is not 180,000 square feet, it's about 90,000 square feet. Again, we're trying to be inclusive, and we've engaged everyone on campus, including Theatre Arts and the Jazz Festival people.

"We're trying to construct a facility that is going to benefit all parties, and is something that everyone can get behind. We're in the process of finalizing those plans, getting them before the University, and Dr. Staben will probably have that document in hand when he arrives March 1st.

"Don Burnett [current University of Idaho interim president] has been fantastic through this process. He and I talked about when he was a law school dean here and he said we had to get the 2nd and 3rd year law school classes in Boise to save the future of the Law School. What I've told him is that the sense of urgency to create an Events Center here is equally important – if not more – to the long-term viability of this athletics program.

"Since 1969 we have talked a good game. But at some point in time we have to either walk-the-walk, or make a decision about what this program is going to be. It could be a huge advantage for our campus. At the end of the day, the University has to say this is a priority and we have to get this done, and every alumnus has to help us get this done."

LINK: Staben Ready to Lead Idaho

LINK: PART II: "Events Center benefits entire campus"

LINK: PART III: "There will be additional realignment"

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