COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Mack Rhoades believes running a school in the Southeastern Conference job is not a big leap forward from Houston.
Missouri’s new athletic director takes over next month and said he’ll be leaning on Mike Alden for advice during the transition. He said the challenge will be to continue the momentum led by Alden the last 17 years.
There was much fanfare at the school’s Student Center for the formal announcement. School mascot Truman the Tiger led a procession that included a mini-marching band and cheerleaders to seats in front of the podium, setting the scene for Rhoades’ entrance. Football coach Gary Pinkel, coming off consecutive Eastern Division championships, and wrestling coach Brian Smith, whose program is rated No. 1 in the country, were among those in attendance.
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”This is not a fixer-upper, OK?” Rhoades said. ”I’m coming to a great place but also leaving a great place.”
Rhoades arrives with a reputation as an effective fundraiser. Missouri has added first-class facilities in recent years to keep up with the rest of the SEC.
He didn’t identify any areas that would be priorities, saying ”the first several months I’m going to do a lot of listening and learning.”
Alden and his wife sat in the front row, at Rhoades’ request. Alden plans on teaching.
”I think it’s a great asset, a great advantage, that Mike will be around,” Rhoades said. ”Why wouldn’t I want to lean on him and learn from him?”
The 56-year-old Alden approved of the hire and said he’s known the 49-year-old Rhoades for a long time.
”He’s terrific. He’s got a high motor and he’s got great integrity,” Alden said. ”You have to outwork your competition, particularly in this league, and he has all those characteristics.”
Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said Rhoades was identified as a potential replacement ”from the very beginning.”
”The one thing we will never compromise on is integrity and compliance,” Rhoades said. ”We’re going to win and we’re going to do it the right way. We certainly aren’t going to cut corners.”
Loftin denied reports that when he was president at Texas A&M, Rhoades was a candidate for the athletic director position in 2012. He said he first met Rhoades three weeks ago.
Rhoades has been at Houston since 2009, and prior to that he was athletic director at Akron.
During Rhoades’ tenure, Houston raised nearly $100 million and built $160 million worth of new facilities, including a new on-campus football stadium and a men’s and women’s basketball development center, Missouri said. Rhoades also negotiated a new multimedia rights deal for the athletics program and naming rights deals.
Houston played football bowl games four of the last six seasons and was 8-5 last year, beating Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Under Alden, Missouri’s annual athletics budget has grown from $13.7 million to $85 million and has benefited from $265 million in private donations that have helped fund $233.2 million in facilities upgrades, according to the school.
But the school has come under fire for off-field issues. An independent report said Missouri failed to follow parts of the federal Title IX law that governs sexual harassment on campus when handling the case of a former swimmer’s suicide. Missouri changed its Title IX policies after the report.
In 1999, Alden hired Quin Snyder over Bill Self as head basketball coach to replace Norm Stewart. During Snyder’s tenure, Missouri incurred NCAA sanctions.
Alden’s big hire was football coach Gary Pinkel in 2000. Missouri is coming off consecutive SEC Eastern Division championships.
”When you’ve worked with something for 17 years and then you turn that over, it’s an emotional period,” Alden said. ”It’s been an emotional day.”