The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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New athletic director moves in

In a plan to help boost the athletic department, new assistant coaches and a new athletic director have been hired and put into place in what could be the beginning of a new era for Matador athletics.

Last fall, university president Jolene Koester announced the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. The purpose of the commission was to create, she said, “a road map to excellence” for the athletic department. The commission came up with several recommendations that would improve the department over the next five to seven years.

Also last year, six-year Athletic Director Dick Dull stepped down from his position and was replaced by Interim Athletic Director Janet Lucas. A short time after, a nationwide search for a new athletic director began.

The university’s search ended on Aug. 3 when it was announced that Rick Mazzuto would take the position.

Mazzuto was previously heading the athletic department at Longwood University in Virginia, where he helped lead a transition Division II athletics to Division I.

Longwood had just started the transition and Mazzuto was the AD during the process, said Greg Pouty, Longwood’s assistant athletic director of media relations, adding that “Rick (Mazzuto) left us in a very good position.”

Mazzuto left Longwood with a good impression.

“You never want to lose a person of his caliber,” said Troy Austin, the Interim Athletic Director at Longwood.

Mazzuto officially started his term at CSUN on Sept. 5, the first day of the fall semester. With a new athletic director in place, the university found someone to implement their Blue Ribbon recommendations.

“During the interview process I received a copy of it and was able to read it a couple of times before I visited campus,” Mazzuto said. “I think it’s a pretty comprehensive report. I think my personal goals and the department goals are to make sure that the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon committee become a reality.”

Despite signing a two-year contract in which he will be helping lead a five- to seven-year plan, Mazzuto showed interest in leading CSUN through the entire process.

“If you look at my resume, I’ve moved enough times,” Mazzuto said. “And certainly if I had the opportunity to finish my career in this part of the country I would be delighted to do that.”

The recommendations set forth by the commission include the following:

“Help Intercollegiate Athletics become a more integral and valued University endeavor that draws greater participation and financial support from students, faculty, staff, alumni and the surrounding region.”

The first recommendation will play a large role in the ultimate success of the department. With the exception of a few sports, the athletic department has received relatively little fan support with only a small amount of fans showing up for games.

Mazzuto, however, sees potential to improve greatly, given certain circumstances.

“When you think about Cal State Northridge, we have 33,000 students, we have 4,000 employees, we have well over 100,000 graduates, many of whom live within driving distance of this university,” Mazzuto said.

Both the commission and Mazzuto have made it clear that they would like to make university athletics a more vital part of the campus and surrounding community.

Being the only four-year university makes being the athletic center of the Valley a possibility, Mazzuto said.

In the three weeks Mazzuto has been at CSUN, he has already become aware of the problems with the large amount of empty seats at sporting events.

Mazzuto stresses the importance in athletic success in order to establish a support base.

“People follow a winner,” Mazzuto said.

He said he would like the department to work closely with other campus organizations in developing a sense of school spirit.

Hoping to attract more interest from the community, Mazzuto hopes to improve several of the campus facilities as well in order to make sure fans have better experiences.

An evaluation of the athletic facilities needs to be done, Mazzuto said. Improvements on customer service – specifically access to concession and restrooms, parking availability, and having an entertaining event – top his list. Lighting several of the fields as well as putting an air conditioning system in the Matadome is among other things Mazzuto would like to look into.

Another recommendation made by the commission was to “evaluate and enhance the academic performance of student-athletes with a focus on improving graduation rates and NCAA Academic Progress Rate results.”

According to the commission’s report, student-athlete graduation rates are at a considerably lower rate at CSUN than in the rest of the CSU system and the nation.

Mazzuto and the commission’s top priority is the academic success of the student-athletes at CSUN.

“It’s (got to) be the top priority. It’s the reason CSUN is in existence,” Mazzuto said.

He acknowledges that the educational degree is the ultimate goal, adding that many student-athletes probably won’t make the professional level so they must develop other skills.

One of the ways the commission hopes to improve graduation rates is by scouting student-athletes who have shown the same dedication and success in the classroom as on the field.

Mazzuto said he does not see this added standard as a limitation on the number of student-athletes available for scouting – rather, he sees it as a benefit.

Mazzuto said he believes that an increased emphasis on academic performance can only make the campus more appealing to high school students and parents.

He plans to get more involved with the student-athletes, in particular getting to know what their graduation plans are.

He has begun looking into ways of improving the current graduation problem. He began individually interviewing each head coach, getting their thoughts on how the athletic program and academic performance of student-athletes can be improved. He also plans to sit down with the academic advisement personnel and see what their experiences have been with student-athletes and get some input on where and how improvements can be made.

A third Blue Ribbon Commission idea was to “evaluate and develop a financial plan that will enable Intercollegiate Athletics to achieve the recommendations of the Commission.”

The commission and Mazzuto have expressed concern about the low amount of revenue that is received from outside sources, primarily ticket sales, sponsorship and fundraising.

Mazzuto sees three potential ways of improving the financial situation of the department – energizing efforts in fundraising in terms of community support, improving marketing efforts in terms of ticket sales and reaching out to the corporate community in the San Fernando Valley to see if they can support the department in a significant way. Mazzuto sees the university’s size as a valuable market place for corporate entities.

Mazzuto also plans to look into the costs of improving the athletic facilities. Once the costs of the improvements are known, discussions will start on how to fund them.

The commission also recommended that officials “strengthen the competitive position of the Athletic Department and its current sports programs within Division I-AAA of the NCAA and the Big West Conference.”

The University endured much success during its Division II run with 34 national titles before CSUN made the jump to Division I during the 1990-1991 season.

Mazzuto said he remains optimistic on the potential of CSUN athletics.

The commission also recommended that athletics officials “assure that Intercollegiate Athletics is built on a foundation of integrity, pride, excellence and quality.”

The athletics department has been placed under probation until June 2007 for two separate incidents that occurred.

Now, while the probation doesn’t affect
the recommendations, Mazzuto feels the need to be more vigilant in order to avoid the repetition of more violations. The commission has recommended that an educational program on NCAA rules and regulations be developed in order to raise awareness and lower the risk of more violations.

Mazzuto stresses the importance of developing the athletic department.

“A quality successful athletic program can very much enhance the reputation of an educational institution,” Mazzuto said.

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