Aug. 31, 2012
The four finalists for the Director of Athletics position at Montana will be on campus this week, and GoGriz.com will be providing an inside look at each candidate. Today we feature Chris King, the Director of Athletics at Texas-Pan American.
King has made his name in athletics administration by leading both UTPA and Alabama off NCAA probation.
King started his career in NCAA compliance, working in that area at Robert Morris, Campbell, Liberty and Central Florida.
He was hired by Alabama in 2002 to help lead the school through a five-year probation. He took on a similar two-year probation challenge at UTPA when he was hired as the school's AD in 2009.
Why did you apply to be the next Director of Athletics at Montana?
Certainly the competitive success of the programs is very appealing. There are only a handful of universities across the country who can talk about having the success Montana has had in the revenue-generating sports of football and men's and women's basketball.
To win 16 of the last 19 Big Sky championships (in football), have 26 winning seasons in a row and twice being national champions, to have men's basketball playing in March Madness two of the last three years, and to have a women's basketball program with a winning percentage over 75 percent the last three decades is absolutely amazing.
Knowing that you can compete for an all-sports trophy and the (Big Sky Conference) Presidents Cup every single year means you can be successful in both athletics and academics, and I think that's really important for anybody who sits in the athletic director chair.
And I'd like to share my University of Montana moment. It was 2009 and I was sitting on my couch watching Montana play Appalachian State in the FCS semifinals. The screen was shaking, and I remember telling my wife, "That cameraman is going to get fired for this."
But then they would pan up in the stands, and it was the stadium that was literally rocking. That's when I told my wife, "If that job ever opens up, we're going for it. That's a place where I would want to be." Seeing that environment really reminded me of my days at Alabama.
What makes you one of the four finalists for this position?
I have 17 years of experience, and I've been at every level. I've been at an FCS institution, I've been at two FBS institutions, including Alabama of the SEC for seven years, and I'm now an athletic director at a I-AAA institution.
I think it was the culmination of those experiences and that most of my references who spoke with the search committee indicated that I won't compromise the integrity or character of the program. I think that appealed to the committee.
Montana has been without a Director of Athletics since March. What would be your top priorities in your first month on the job?
I've provided a number of the search committee members and I'll share with Dr. Engstrom this afternoon my 90-day, six-month and one-year plan. But the first 30 days would mostly involve listening and learning from everybody.
I would meet with everybody on the athletics staff, as well as university administrators and community leaders, and I would be visible at every sporting event and every other special event I could speak at.
I would want to listen and learn and absorb as much information as I could so I can hit the ground running and help move the program forward.
What are the challenges you see in the decade ahead for Montana?
The challenges are no different than any other university is facing. Finance is always going to be your major challenge, because every year your scholarship costs go up, your operating goes up, your travel goes up and salaries are increasing.
I think you're going to have to execute a funding model that includes at least one emerging women's sport, and when you're looking at facilities, I know it's Dr. Engstrom's vision to have an athletics academic center, with a new strength and conditioning facility, meeting rooms and locker rooms.
Those are the immediate needs, but over the next decade you would want to have a facilities capital construction plan. You always want to be moving your programs forward and providing the best possible facilities and resources for your coaches and student-athletes.
What is your favorite part of being an athletics administrator?
For me the most enjoyable part of this job, by far, is serving and supporting the student-athletes. I don't miss a home event, and I enjoy when I get a chance to travel with our teams, particularly to the championship events and NCAAs, which Montana frequently does. Being able to watch your student-athletes in those environments is just a thrill for me.
And I really enjoy watching the student-athletes grow. Not just competitively as athletes but also academically, and then providing them with the lifelong skills they'll need when they receive their degrees and move out into the real world.
What's been the most memorable moment(s) of your career?
I was hired at Alabama in June 2002 and I was hired at UTPA in October 2009. I was hired at Alabama to assist our athletic director lead us through a five-year probation sentence that included a two-year bowl ban and a number of scholarship restrictions. At UTPA I was hired to lead the athletic program through its own probation process.
When we got off those probations, in February 2007 for Alabama and this past March at UTPA, it was very satisfying. It was really an honor to lead those programs through those processes, because it was a culmination of the university administrations and athletics working together to get through some really tough times.
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