Elite is the attitude that Dr. Brandon Martin, the newly appointed athletic director, wants to bring to Cal State Northridge’s athletic program.
“We want to be an elite program. We want to be a national contender, and not just in one sport,” Martin said. “In all 18 of our sports. We want to compete for national championships.”
Since he began his job, Martin has already redesigned the inside of the Matadome, remodeled the entrance to the soccer field, refurbished the conference room and added new staff members and coaches.
Martin’s main focus as athletic director is to bring the best experience to the athletes, students, fans and community.
The renovation to the Matadome began with a new design of the floor.
“Our floor is ranked second in the country behind Long Beach State in terms of design and graphics,” Martin said. “That is something that we can promote and sell.”
He has also added new seats for both the student and VIP section. There are also plans to add concession stands, apparel stores, and graphics in the hallways to better enhance the experience.
“When you come to the Matadome, you’re going to have a brand new experience that is going to make you want to come back,” Martin said.
Improving athletics starts with putting fans in the stands. Martin’s vision is to get the community more engaged in Northridge athletics. He wants to promote the Northridge brand, and is doing so by making the athletic department look more like an elite program.
Another way Dr. Martin has been changing the attitude at CSUN is by hiring new staff members and coaches with the same vision.
Ryan Swartwood and Dawn Ellerbe, veterans of the field with years of professional experience, were both hired to be a part of Dr. Martin’s administration staff.
Swartwood was hired in May as the new Assistant Athletic Director for Admissions to oversee areas of strategic planning, camps and clinics, contract administration, risk management, NCAA compliance, drug testing coordination and sport oversight. He has previously worked with the Oakland Raiders as a legal intern, working directly on the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. He also worked at the University of Oklahoma.
Ellerbe is the Associate Athletic Director for marketing, branding, and fan development. She brings eight years of experience from Cal State Monterey Bay to the CSUN family. She was an All-American at the University of South Carolina and competed in track and field at the 2000 Olympics Games.
Martin has also hired three new coaches in the past four months. Reggie Theus for men’s basketball, Greg Moore for baseball and Gina Umeck for women’s golf.
Theus brings 13 years of experience that includes both the NBA and college level. He served as the head coach for the Sacramento Kings, the New Mexico State Aggies and was an assistant under hall of famer Rick Pitino at Louisville.
“His pedigree speaks for itself,” Martin said. “He coached the first ever All-American at New Mexico State, and is doing a great job recruiting.”
Moore was ranked in the top ten for assistant coaches in the country by Baseball America, and his passion for excellence is a key attribute that attracted him to Dr. Martin.
“He brings a relentless work ethic and a passion for student athletes, and a passion for excellence that really attracted me being in my position,” Martin said.
Umeck was hired as the new women’s golf coach from the University of Albany. She was an All-American at UCLA and played on the 2004 National Champion team.
“This is our third coach in four and a half months.” Martin said. “Things are moving, things are changing, and there is a good buzz about our coaches.”
All these changes has caught the eye of donors as fundraising has increased.
The athletic program has been received 500 thousand dollars in pledges from donors in four and a half months, according to Martin.
Since he arrived, he has worked together with the University Advancement to start the Comprehensive Excellence Fund with priorities that include scholarships, facility enhancements, coaching and staff compensation, marketing, branding, and fan development.
Martin comes to CSUN after years at the University of Southern California and Oklahoma University. At USC, he was the second person in charge of the athletic department gaining experience in budgeting and sports oversight before leaving for Oklahoma.
“I think that working at two high level BCS institutions gave me experience and a wide spectrum of duties,” Martin said. “I was exposed to budgets, I was exposed to marketing and sports oversight. I had exposure to a high level of fund raising which prepared me for this position.”
Leaving Los Angeles to go to work for Joe Castiglione at Oklahoma was one of the best moves Dr. Martin made in his life. He describes how Castiglione was a model everyday that helped him be prepared to take over at CSUN.
“Working for Joe Castiglione, one of the top athletic directors in the country, provided a model on a daily basis on how to lead a department,” Martin said. “Approaching your work from a systematic standpoint, making data-driven decisions, and learning how to manage internal and external stakeholders of athletics was vital for my development and growth.”
Martin intends to bring all that he has experienced from two universities that compete every year at the highest level to CSUN.