10 Questions for College Asst. Athletic Director
Tom Ford, my old Athletic Director at UC Irvine (1990-92), is currently the Associate Athletic Director/External Relations at Cal State Northridge. Tom, a 1977 graduate with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of Pacific, has also served as an Athletic Director at the at the University of Houston (1984-86). He has 25 years of experience in and around college athletics. I thought it appropriate we feature a college administrator and Tom Ford has the experience. Here is our Top 10 questions for Tom:
1. Tell Us What Your Average Day is Like:
A: I first open the daily newspaper to determine if something happened overnight that will adjust my agenda for the day ahead. If nothing occurred, I take the first hour to respond to phone calls, emails, correspondence through U.S. Mail (not much these days) and drop by visits from colleagues. These positions in intercollegiate athletics are not always attending competitions and having fun. About 70% of our time is spent on personnel issues; whether it is coaches, administrators or student related. Therefore much of my day is spent dealing with personnel issues. I don’t have enough time to do what I enjoy which is fundraising and interacting with people.
2. Tell Us About Your Career Path, Including Your Current Job.
A: Most of my career has been in higher education and athletics administration. I began at University of the Pacific in Sacramento/Stockton; first as business manager of McGeorge School of Law; transferring after four years to the Stockton campus to work in business and financial services. After short stint there …. off to intercollegiate athletics as executive director of the Pacific Athletic Foundation, the fundraising arm for Athletics. Next challenge was at the University of Houston as Assistant/Associate Athletics director for Fund Development/External Relations; then became the fourth Athletics Director of University of Houston. After eight years at Houston, I moved to charlotte N.C. to join the Raycom Sports team (television sports syndicating firm) as Director of Program Development and Lead Consultant for Raycom Management Group. As DPD, I maintained relationships with universities and conferences for which Raycom held television rights. The next stint was as Manager of Extended University (continuing education) at the University of Arizona. Had a cup of coffee there as the Athletic Director’s position at University of California, Irvine had my name written all over it. They needed a fundraising A.D. I departed from UCI over a disconnect with the Administration that wanted to drop baseball, men’s track & field and men’s cross country. They did drop all three and later reinstated the sports. I spent the next twelve years in Kansas City as the Associate Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. A very challenging position consisting of soliciting sponsorship for events and activities at the annual Coaches’ Convention at the Men’s Final Four and fundraising for the NABC’s foundation. CBS paid $6 Billion dollars for the television rights of the Men’s NCAA Final Four for eleven years. As a result, CBS took over the sponsorship activities tying in the NABC events and activities as added value to companies purchasing commercial inventory in the NCAA Basketball tournament, eliminating my position. I started my own business by bringing the 27 coaches associations into a purchasing group. I ran out of financial support before officially launching the business and had to get a real job. I am now the Associate Athletics Director for External Relations at California State University, Northridge.
3. The best advice I ever received was….
A: “Work hard, play hard and do the best at whatever you undertake and you will be a success.” John Wooden
4. The top sports memories I’m fond of telling others.
A: While at the University of Houston I was looking out my window in the Athletics Office when a yellow cab pulled into the parking lot. It wasn’t often that a cab would come to our building. I was curious to see who would be coming to visit. I watched as a young man exited the cab. He kept getting out and getting out, dress in white from head to foot. He had to be seven foot tall, I thought to my self. He waited as the cabbie removed two large bags from the trunk. He grabbed the bags and head for the front door. I dashed to the door to meet him. As he entered, he placed the bags softly to the floor and began bowing and bowing toward me. He said “ I’m here to see Coach, Mr. Guy Lewis!” I happily escorted him to Coach Lewis’ office, thinking this guy could turn this program around. And, he did. Akeem Olajuwon became a Houston Cougar and would lead us to three consecutive NCAA Final Fours. He had help from Clyde Drexler and a number of other young men, Michael Young, Alvin Franklin, Larry Micheau, and Reed Gettys, to name a few. Oh, a side note: Carl Lewis was on our Track team and Freddy Couples was on the golf team. We won the national championship in golf three of the seven years of my tenure and went to the Cotton Bowl four times. What a great seven years!
5. What Are Areas of Opportunity for Growth in Collegiate Athletics?
A: The most significant growth potential is for women in intercollegiate athletics. Title IX has some impact on the opportunity; however, the trend is to place women in middle management positions usually in promotions & marketing, compliance and fund raising. My sense is that women generally are tenacious fund raisers. Slowly, women are becoming the leaders of intercollegiate athletics departments experiencing the same struggle as African American males in becoming head football coaches.
6. What is Your Advice for Someone Seeking a Position as a Senior Manager of Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA).
A: Get as much experience as possible in every aspect of the ICA department. Do not get pigeon holed in one discipline. Most head administrators have strong backgrounds in fund raising and community relations. It is not often that you see media relations (SID), business officers or compliance officers rise to the top position. Most athletics directors are channeled from external relations.
7. Mentors and their impact.
A: First person I would identify is Bob Winterberg, former VP for Finance and Administration at University of the Pacific. Without his encouragement to complete my degree I would not have achieved the success career I am enjoying. Bob also placed me in a position with the university that permitted me to complete my degree at the same time gaining valuable success under his tutelage. The second; would be Cedric Dempsey, former AD at Pacific, Houston and Arizona; and, former President of the NCAA. Ced is an excellent administrator with strong integrity and pleasant personality. I owe much to Ced for the clear professional guidance he provided me over my career. The third person to whom I have gratitude is Jim Haney, Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. A guy who is a strong family man and one of devout Christian beliefs, Jim is a free spirited administrator. His ability to create a successful path to follow is remarkable. He is an administrator with a style that gives you full rein to operate in a position with autonomy and never one to micro manage. He places confidence in ability of those he hires resulting in successful management.
8. Impression of working in College Sports vs Professional Organization.
A: While I have not worked for a professional sports organization, I would liken my experience at Raycom Sports to that of a pro organization. It seems the non collegiate experience is more bottom line driven. The thing I missed most about being on a college campus is the interaction with the student athletes. It is rewarding to see these young men and women achieve in classroom and on the playing court, in the pool, on the track, on the field and on the base paths. (sounds like a cliché, but it is true.) One of the most rewarding functions I have attended is the academic achievement banquets for athletes. These young folks must be better organized and manage their time more efficiently than other students while being prohibited from working for financial gain as other students are permitted.
9. Pepole wanting to work in sports should ……..
A: Do not expect to get rich in being a professional administrator in intercollegiate athletics. Keep an importance balance between sports programs; by that I mean that a football, basketball or baseball program may be your front porch to your program and may be the only revenue generators. But, don’t diminish the importance of the other (non-ball) sports. Resource allocation is dictated by several factors; cost of operating, income potential, fundraising interest, title IX, visibility, etc. Keep in mind that each one of the coaches should and will feel their program is the most important. A realistic statement by the Administration on the allocation of resources should be communicated to every sports program while all coaches are in the same room so that no doubt is left that resources will be allocated for the best chance of success for the entire Athletics program.
10. If I had it to do it all over again, I would ………
A: I’d do it the same way all over again.