Sports Figure of the Month: UCSB Athletic Director Mark Massari, 5 years on the job

Mark Massari enters his fifth year as the Director of Athletics at UCSB.

To honor Mark Massari’s five-year anniversary as UCSB’s Athletic Director, Presidio Sports is pleased to add the “Ole Boss” to its Santa Barbara Sports Figure of the Month series.

Massari was introduced as UCSB’s new athletics boss in August of 2008 and has led the department to many successes, despite a new economic reality in the world of mid-major athletics.

Massari recently sat down with Presidio Sports to discuss his five years in Santa Barbara.

Looking back on your first press conference at UCSB the day you were introduced, you mentioned that your focus would be on improving the athletic facilities and hiring great coaches. Can you talk about your successes in those areas over the past five years.

Well we’ve made great progress on both fronts. We’re not done on the first front by any means. So talking about capital projects and facility upgrades, we have about $35 million in deferred maintenance and project needs, and so, successes on that front have been Harder Stadium — that’s been a real exciting one that the community sees first. That’s been almost $2 million. We raised that all externally, no campus or student funds is what that means. We just partnered with the recreation department to raise another $15 million over the next 10 years for facility needs that we share, led by Pauley Track getting about $2 million, and Rob Gym is going to get about almost three-quarters of a million, and then we’re going to fix some fields and do some daily maintenance. So we’re approaching $20 million on those things. Baseball is another one that we’ve raised almost a million dollars for.

SPORTS FIGURE OF THE MONTH


This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

This award is made possible by American Riviera Bank

Each Month, Presidio Sports recognizes a local sports figure for their extraordinary contribution to the Santa Barbara athletic community. It is our way to recognize those who are making a lasting impact in our sports community, whether it is an inspirational athletic performance, a lifetime achievement award, or perhaps a great example of leadership.

The Next Five Years

The big piece is the Campus Pool replacement and new Aquatics Center. And that project, that’s a big one. Capital projects and facility upgrades is an everyday discussion here. If it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago. I realize I inherited that, and just go for it. It’s a sales job in a different way.

Once the campus approves these areas, which they are because they can’t support the fixing of those facilities, then we’re on our own to go through private donors or the students, and we’ve done a mix of both. And, as we go through these things and talk to our donors, some donors jump on and some don’t. So be it, it’s just a sales job. So that’s the phase that we’re at right now. I’m really excited about that. It really drives me and it drives, I think, our coaches because it’s all recruiting based at the end of the day.

I’ve tried to take all of our projects from the outside in, and let’s fix plazas, let’s fix restrooms, let’s make it easy to come in, and then if we want to fix things like the field and bleachers, we’ll get to that. Let’s not replace the fields before you show the recruits what’s possible first.

The New Coaches

We have hit home runs. Diane (O’Brien) and I do all the coaching searches here. So four hires we’ve had, Simon Thibodeau in women’s tennis, who just got us our highest ranking in 20 years. Andrew Checketts has been an unbelievably successful story on the diamond in only two years. Carlene Mitchell took over a storied women’s basketball program that has high expectations and I see the foundations she’s laying. And the fourth is Nicole Lantagne Welch. We got the ACC Coach of the Year from the previous year to say ‘I want to be a Gaucho’. I’m also excited about the coaches we already had in place, you know, Wolf Wigo and Gregg Wilson and Tim Vom Steeg, Bob Williams and Marty Davis. They’ve all been dedicated and have bought into the plan.

Favorite moments on the playing field

Let me give you my honorable mentions (so I don’t have to single any out). Men’s volleyball 2011 national championship run, that was special, especially beating USC two times in five days. Breaking the (NCAA Soccer Attendance) record in 2010 by a large margin against UCLA was pretty special, plus we won that match. And then owning the NCAA record from 2008 on has been something to be proud of. Baseball, ending the 12-year drought to get to Regionals, that was pretty crazy. Men’s basketball, both the tournament runs were great, especially the second one because the team came so far and grew up at the right time. Orlando (Johnson) went nuts in the (Big West) Tournament. And women’s basketball, Coach Gottlieb’s first year was really, really big for me. I had never been to the NCAA Tournament in basketball before and she was No. 1 in the conference start to finish and really had to come from behind against Cal Poly in the (Big West) championship game, and continue the success from Mark French.

Massari is an active user on Twitter. His handle is “OleBoss.” One of the many things he enjoys about his job is seeing the personal growth of the student athletes.

As an active Twitter user, here’s several suggestions for people to follow on Twitter from @OleBoss.

I like John Gordon. He’s a leadership author and does some leadership tweets that I read almost daily. Some kind of ‘get-on-the-bus’ type of stuff. I do Jim Rome. I follow (Santa Barbara Mayor) Helene Schneider and I recommend that. I’ll give you a fourth because I need to throw another Gaucho in there. Josh Elliot of ABC Good Morning America. He’s fun to watch because he’s all into soccer and he loves Gaucho soccer, and he loves Santa Barbara.

Favorite things about Santa Barbara

I’m a California native so I knew how beautiful it was down here, but it’s more special than I ever imagined. I love the rich history of Santa Barbara and I love how the community celebrates that, so I think Fiesta is one of my favorite things.

My daughter is a flower girl, and we’ve totally bought in on the Wednesday night at the Mission, and the history of why Old Spanish Days was created, celebrating the Mission being rebuilt, and I think the friar coming out and blessing it is one of the coolest things. It’s such a special night.

What’s been the most rewarding part about being an NCAA Athletic Director?

The relationships with the kids is my favorite part. At the other schools I had been at, I was always involved with students-athletes – I supervised sports – but there’s a lot more business function to it. You take a real business approach. So you’re like a front office in that way, like a professional franchise in that way, where you have to look at it in an outreach standpoint, a marketing standpoint, from a philanthropic standpoint. Those things generate the funds to support the other programs, and I was knee deep in that.

Here, I still do that, obviously. I have to be that way every day, but I get caught in the internal things a little bit more and I enjoy that so much more. The leadership things we provide for student-athletes, and watching them grow as people. Destiny Mason is one of the first recruits I sat with. She’s about to finish her fifth year and get a UC degree. I remember where she was as a freshman coming in, and going through her journey, and now she’s producing on the court, and she’s growing as a young woman. She’s made me proud.

All 500 of our kids are just like that.

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