"Because of my involvement in the Olympic Development Program, I am friends with Chris Petrucelli, who is not only the University of Texas head (women's soccer) coach but also the U-21 national team coach. He and I were at a lot of the same recruiting events and coaching events. When the assistant coaching job (at Texas) became available someone asked me if I would be interested. In conjunction with my interest in that program, I contacted the graduate program to find out if there would be a possibility that I would be accepted to their PhD program, which is essentially the most important thing for me right now. Coaching is very important to me, but if I can progress academically by obtaining my PhD, that takes me one step closer to my goal of being an athletic director at a major institution.
"When you have an opportunity to earn a very good living that will allow you to take care of your family as well as allow you to earn such a prestigious degree from such a great institution, opportunities like that don't often fall into place. I guess the late nature of this decision was caused by the fact that it was such a tremendous opportunity for myself and my family."
When did you actually take the job?
"I was offered the job at the end of last week by the (Texas) head coach. But I was at an Olympic Development Program and didn't want to resign and make my coaching staff have to deal with the repercussions of my not being there. And I felt it was too important and that I should do it face to face. That was why I held off telling the (MSU) administration until Monday morning."
Couldn't you have stayed on as head coach and pursued a PhD at Mississippi State?
"Being a head coach and pursuing a PhD don't go hand in hand because of the time constraints on both the PhD program and the head coaching job. Being an assistant coach puts less pressure on you and you can arrange your time much better, which will allow you more time to pursue a PhD."
Did MSU Associate A.D./Women's Sports Samye Johnson know when she hired you that being an athletic director was your ultimate goal and that something like this could happen?
"I talked to Samye as well as other administrators about being an athletic director. I've never kept that a secret. However, I was willing to put that on the backburner for several more years if the right opportunity didn't come around. I've certainly enjoyed my time at Mississippi State. I love the people and love my players. I've had a great experience here and had no intentions of leaving at all until this opportunity at Texas came along."
How has your experience been with the administration at Mississippi State during your four years?
"It is very important that people understand that Mr. Templeton or Samye Johnson had no bearing on this decision. This was strictly for my family and myself. If this opportunity hadn't come up, I would have been extremely happy to work for and with them to create a better program at Mississippi State. Both Samye and Larry (Templeton) have been tremendously supportive of the athletic program as well as our soccer program. There are three things that can affect your program - coaching staff salary, facility improvements and the overall operations budget, My salary has risen tremendously over the four years that I have been here. My assistant coaches have been given more money. This is not a financial decision by any means. From a facilities standpoint, there have been tremendous improvements. We've had improvements in dugouts, video tower, windscreen signs, scoreboard and a new parking lot. Our budget has increased between 20% to 25% since I first came here. I feel that they have given us every opportunity to be successful. You could always ask for more; coaches are always asking for more because you want to do more."
How long will it take to get your PhD at Texas?
"Depending on my class structure, probably five years. I'm only 32 years old so certainly this is a good time for me to go into the PhD program. I have the opportunity to be an assistant coach at a major institution such as Texas as well as have the ability to go into a program as prestigious as the one that I am getting into."
After the five years are over, what are your plans?
"At that point, I should have everything in place to allow me to make a decision as to whether I want to be a head coach again or go into administration. Coaching is certainly a passion of mine and not something that I have lost. I enjoy it tremendously and will not stop coaching. I just want to have all of my ducks in a row by the time I'm 45 or 50 to put me into the position to be an administrator."
Coaching seems like a more glamorous job than being an athletic director. To me, it definitely sounds like you are basically saying that you prefer it to being a coach.
"I don't think it is that. I'm someone who likes to effect change. I like to help mold people. I haven't been able to do it a great deal, but certainly the experience of coaching my players allows me to do that. That has allowed me to be their mentor and influence them and improve their lifeskills. As an athletic director, I won't just mold people but mold people and programs."
Have you recommended a member of your staff for the head coaching position?
"I recommended to Samye Johnson that Neil MacDonald, who is a current assistant coach, be considered for the job. He is very, very talented and is an excellent role model for the young ladies who are part of this program. He is also very well known and recognized in the state of Mississippi, which will help Mississippi State in the recruiting wars. I want what is best for the program and if they can fine a better candidate then Neil, then they should hire that person, but I can't think of a finer candidate and hope that Neil will be given strong consideration."
When will you be able to talk to your players or have you already done that?
"Actually, I have talked to all of them."
What were their reactions?
"Because of the relationship that we have, there was some sadness. But I have always been someone that told them if they could better themselves, they should do it. Due to the fact that I'm practicing what I preach, they were somewhat understanding. They were well aware that I did my Masters in Sports Administrations here and want to become an athletic director. So, they saw it as a natural step. Some of them knew that it was going to happen, but they hoped that it wouldn't happen while they were at Mississippi State."
Did any of them talk about who they perfer as the next head coach?
"Their main focus was on the situation at hand, so I have no references as to what they thought. But I'm sure they would be very happy with Neil. I know they enjoyed being around him a great deal in the fall and spring. And he, in fact, spent a lot of time doing a lot of the on-the-field coaching so they are used to his coaching style."
Do you have anything else to say to the MSU fans?
"I've loved my time at Mississippi State. I'm proud to say that I'm a graduate of the university."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher/owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network on the internet. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.