Having been athletic director at all three levels in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, CSUN Athletic Director Dick Dull has found a home at Cal State Northridge.
Originally from the East Coast, Dull has made himself a staple on the CSUN campus and at many athletic events.
“I’ve been treated very, very well here,” Dull said.
In February, Dull was one of four finalists looking to become Indiana State’s athletic director, but he is staying at CSUN. He says he still has a “great enthusiasm for (his) job and Cal State Northridge.”
“I’m here, I’m doing the job to the best of my ability, and right now, the only thing on my mind and my focus is Cal State Northridge and the student athletes,” Dull said.
His journey to CSUN has had many twists and turns, including stops at three other programs, including the University of Maryland.
“This job opened up, and I applied,” Dull said about coming to Northridge. “I had been at Division III, Division II and Division I, and I always believed myself to be a Division I athletic director.”
Dull has had to make many difficult decisions since arriving at CSUN, including the elimination of the football program in 2001. But through his past experiences, his decisions can be trusted to be in the best interests of CSUN and the athletic program.
His decision to eliminate the football program did not come easily to a man who had always been around football. He had to take into consideration that the program was losing more than one million dollars every year and did not have an on-campus stadium, playing instead at Pierce College.
“It was a personally difficult decision,” Dull said. “We yielded in one sport so that we could support 19 others. We didn’t relish in that decision, and I would be presumptive if I spoke for the president (CSUN President Jolene Koester), but I know she labored long and hard to make that ultimate decision. I’m convinced it was the right decision.”
With or without a football team, CSUN’s athletic program is still in great shape, evidenced by the recent performances of many of the school’s teams.
Last semester, the women’s soccer program made a complete turnaround under new head coach Terry Davila and reached the Big West semifinals.
The men’s soccer team, also coached by Davila, reached the NCAA Tournament and beat the team that played for the National Championship, UC Santa Barbara. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams played in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, and the men’s Track and Field team won the Cal-Nevada Track and Field Championships.
Most recently, the men’s volleyball team upset the heavily favored UCLA Bruins in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament before losing in the semifinals to top-ranked Pepperdine.
“I think (our program) is excellent,” Dull said. “We’ve been a Division I institution for 15 years. (UCLA) has been a big-time athletic program for decades and decades and decades. So, compared to (them), we’re just a baby. I’m very pleased with what we’ve accomplished.”
Dull graduated from Maryland and was the school’s athletic director from 1981 to 1986. During that time, the Maryland basketball team reached the NCAA Tournament four out of those five years, behind the stellar play of Len Bias.
Bias died of a drug overdose in 1986, a day after being selected as the second pick in the NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. Although Bias had already withdrawn from school and was no longer a student at the time of his overdose, the turmoil that ensued led to Dull’s stepping down.
“I don’t like the way I exited,” Dull said. “But nevertheless, (Maryland) was a great experience for me in terms of issue management and crisis management, and I learned a lot from it.”
Following Maryland, Dull took some time away and went into the private sector, working at a travel agency.
“We used to do a lot of golf trips to Ireland, Scotland and England,” Dull said. “But I got the opportunity through my old chancellor, John Slaughter, to get back into this business, and I went to a Division II school (at) the University of Nebraska-Kearney.”
During Dull’s three years at Kearney, the school won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference All-Sports Competition each year. After Kearney, Dull moved back home to Pennsylvania to become the athletic director at Division III Moravian College for one year.
In that one year, Moravian won five Middle Athletic Conference championships. After his successful year at Moravian, Dull left the small private school to join Northridge.
During his time at CSUN, Dull has worked with Koester and Vice President for Administration and Finance Mohammad Qayoumi to improve the athletic facilities. The softball field has been improved, along with the track, which was resurfaced with “the best surface in America,” according to Dull.
For the baseball team, a brand new grandstand and press box have been added, and the women’s volleyball team now has its own locker room. Dull credits Koester and Qayoumi for the improvements.
“For the very, very first time since I’ve been here, we’re not ashamed with what we have,” Dull said. “All of that is a result of Dr. Qayoumi as well as Dr. Koester. (Koester) is a great, great fan. She spends as much time in the grandstands as I do. We’re lucky to have somebody as supportive as she is.”
In addition to Dull being courted by other programs, men’s basketball coach Bobby Braswell also recently drew the attention of other schools. Most recently, Fresno State came calling and although Braswell ended up staying, Dull is not looking forward to his departure.
“As far as I’m concerned, Bobby is men’s basketball here,” Dull said. “(We’ve) had the privilege of working together for six years. If (he) ever left, I wouldn’t look at it as losing him. I would say we were privileged to have him here. I can assure you, he’s planning on being back next year.”
Though Dull has already made many tough decisions at CSUN, more are likely to follow. The NCAA has implemented a new Academic Performance Program which prescribes penalties if an institution drops below the minimum 925 Academic Progress Rate.
The 925 APR generally equates to a 50 percent graduation rate over a five-year period, according to reports. CSUN originally was one of the programs singled out for not meeting the 925, but some of the data were incorrect, and CSUN now meets the 925 requirement, Dull said.
“We shouldn’t rest too highly on our laurels,” Dull said. “From my vantage point, a 925 isn’t much higher than a 924, and a 924 would be failing what’s expected of us.”
“This new addition by the NCAA has gotten everybody’s attention,” Dull said. “But that’s the way it should be. Institutions (had) poor graduation rates but nothing would ever happen to them. Now, if you have poor APR scores, you’re going to lose scholarships. For the very first time, the NCAA has put some teeth in its academic standards.”
Another change CSUN athletics made during Dull’s tenure was moving the program from the Big Sky Conference to the Big West Conference in 2001. Next year, after current Big West programs Utah State and Idaho leave, the Big West will be an all-California conference.
Dull believes that moving to the Big West was a great opportunity for the school because it gives CSUN a chance to compete against other mid-majors in the CSU and UC systems.
“(Moving into the Big West) gives us a chance now to cultivate some real, true California rivalries like Pacific and Long Beach and Fullerton,” Dull said. “It’s really been good from that standpoint.”
Dull has made a favorable impression among his employees during the course of the last six years.
“I’ve had four different athletic directors in my 11 years here,” said Ryan Finney, assistant athletic director for media relations. “I’ve worked the longest with Dick, and I have the best working relationship with him. He allows his employees t
o do their best.”
“He brings many different viewpoints that I find refreshing,” Finney said. “I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t like and respect Dick.”
Now firmly entrenched in the Big West, the program seems to be sailing along quite nicely. Dull said he is very happy with the program and the direction its headed.
“It’s a good, competitive program,” Dull said. “I think that competitively, we’re overachievers. That’s a credit to our coaches, but most importantly, it’s a credit to the students.”
Overall, Dull doesn’t seem to regret his decision to come to CSUN and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s been a good six years for me,” Dull said.