Below is the results of an interview between Patrick Fitzgerald, an Entertainment Management student at Missouri State University and Bill Rowe, the Athletic Director at Southwest Missouri State University. The interview was conducted in the fall of 2001.
A: Well it’s really the overall supervision of the entire program, which means in this day and time the monetary aspect is the most important. We just finished doing our budget, which is called the EADA report. This is a federal report that every Division I school has to do every year. We have to do this budget to account for the 224 scholarships for 21 sports. Our budget is over 9 million dollars but when you think how many scholarships we have that is a big chunk of it right there. We have a set way that we have to manage money from gate receipts we take in every sport that we charge admission for and season ticket sales. The majority of this money comes from football, men’s and women’s basketball, and baseball. Those four are the main drawers of ticket revenue. I am also in charge of the hiring and releasing of personnel, human resources what ever you want to call it. This includes the management of the people themselves, trying to give guidance to all the coaches we have. We split those up Coach Bill O’Neil has some sports that report directly to him. Overall I have to be the one responsible but still I delegate that authority to him. Coach O’Neil has soccer programs, football, track, and cross-country. I have Men’s Basketball alone, and I share Women’s Basketball with Dr. Bailey.
She has the other remaining sports the swimming, softball, field hockey, and tennis. We do that so that we have a better line on what we do and of course we have Linda Dollar, our NCAA compliance officer. Then again it is mainly just supervising all of the programs and yet I have been raised doing all of the hands on work myself. I can’t seem to divorce myself from that its just hard to do. Right now we are in the midst of sending out season basketball tickets. The men’s program has sold $733,000 and the women’s program has sold $731,000 to date. I still go through every envelope to make sure the Bears Fund gift is accounted for that goes to their seat fee in the basketball program or that there is someone there that is deceased. Nothing is more embarrassing than for a fan to get a letter that says “Dear Mr. and Mrs.” and their wife has died six months ago. We have to watch for those things because they are sensitive issues and when you are dealing with the public no one wants to get their feelings hurt. We get calls about stuff that you would never imagine. We have just got all except the people who owe their seat license mailed so you can see that’s about a million and a half between these two programs. There really are a lot of things involved, the supervision of the overall program, the human resources hiring of coaches to run the programs of course we’ve got personnel changes all year long you’ve got to change those and make sure each sport gets the proper number of dollars they need to run their program.
Q: How did you become the Head Athletic Director at SMS?
A: I got my undergraduate degree here at SMS and my masters at the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1962. I worked for 3 years helping out the sports program as an assistant coach doing whatever I could do. Then I joined the Army because at that time the military draft was really big. I went to my pre induction and they discovered that I had herniated disc and I didn’t even know that I had it. So now it is August and I am without a job and I get hired on a supply basis here and I just never left. I started as the intramural director, to assistant football and track coach in 1966. We started baseball in 1964. Then I coached baseball for 19 years. Coach Matthews, our basketball coach, died of a heart attack in the spring of 1964. That elevated Coach Thomas to assistant basketball coach, he was the business manager of athletics. So I took that position kept it and we don’t have a new one yet. I am still doing that in addition to being the director of athletics. I coached baseball and was the assistant AD until 1982. So I have gone from intramurals to business managers, to assistant football and track coach, to head baseball coach, assistant AD then to director of athletics in the same year that we went Division I. I have gotten my feet wet in a variety of different areas.
Q: What makes you successful as an athletic director? What are some of the keys that you would need to excel in this field?
A: You have to be able to visit with a variety of people from student athletes, to their parents to general public, to the media, to the administration here. I certainly have my weak points but I know a lot of people and when you have been at this for a while you start to be ingrained in the community and people know who you are and they know if you can help them in a certain way. If we are short a car or something I can go to a dealer and get one. You also have got to be able to mix with the general public. It use to be that as a state school we were state supported. Now we use the term state assisted because we have to go out and generate a lot of the money.
Q: Who makes the hiring decisions for your job?
A: The Board of Governors with the assistance of the President. When I got this job we were without a president. I knew board members that were on that at the time but I didn’t go politic for the job because our predecessor Aldo Saben I had worked for him for twenty some years so I had paid my dues They wanted to get things done and make a move to Division I. I was hired by the Board of Regents but it is now called the Board of Governors. If I were to leave tomorrow they would ask me for references and my recommendations for some to come in but now you almost have to have a national search because of federal laws and regulations.
Q: What are the typical salary ranges for the different levels of collegiate Athletic Directors?
A: This is for the school year, last year the high AD, obviously that’s not me, in the league got $128,000 the low got $89,000 and the average was $105,000 mine isn’t $105,000. I have been here the longest of the AD’s in the league; we have the biggest budget and take in the most. You can see from this hand out where the associates make the highest there oh I can make you a copy of this if you would like. These salaries all are relevant to where you live.
Q: What are some keys for success that you could give to someone who would wants to one day become an Athletic Director?
A; You have to be willing to do apprenticeships. I spent three years as an undergraduate receiving no money for doing it. I didn’t have much to start with and I really enjoyed what I was doing. This helps to get you a chance to meet the right kind of people but you have to be able to grow, and get involved in as many things as you can that you are interested in. certainly you church, because fans are going to support you over here. Fans in the community, media people and the university are also important. You have to treat the other elements of the university. We are one part of a giant circle. We are no more important anyone else. We are not here if it weren’t for academics. If we don’t have students we don’t have a job. Certain coaches get a little forgetful about that sometimes. You have got to remember everyone is here for a purpose too. If you look at it like you are out there as you and you alone you are not going to get a lot of support. You have to be involved in a variety of things you can’t just take one road and have that be the only way.
Q: Do you belong to any special professional organizations?
A: I belong to the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors (NACDA) I got a deal this summer for the four regions of the country and I didn’t know I got it. I got nominated for the Regional Directors of Athletics of the year award. We went to the Final Four. We won six championships. The reason I got the award was because I had great people around me. I had Coaches that worked their butts off and student athletes that won championships. We all play a part from the administration to the media to the student athletes. I am also a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association. I don’t go to their convention any more but I still support it because I want to keep my membership. I have belonged to that now since 1964. I have just finished a four-year term with the NCAA doing committee work on their football committee. I just went on September 1 with a four-year term on the division I baseball committee, which I have never been on before. But those are the organizations that you literally belong to. In college and graduate school I was in Phi Delta Kappa that was a national honor educational academic organization. They helped to open some doors for me too because after I got my masters I went to Indiana University for three straight summers and finished a specialists degree up there. I met new people and now they are scattered all over the country and I love keeping up with them.
Q: What are the degrees that you have earned?
A: I got my undergraduate in education because I probably planned on teaching and coaching. I also wanted to go into broadcasting so I did some of that on the radio while I was employed here. I got my masters degree in Educational Administration and then when I went to Indiana I did that and Sports Administration. They called it a directors degree it is a parallel degree to what we have here called a specialists degree it is 30 hours past the masters degree. I got that in Sports Administration. Then again neat people up there. It is good to get a mixture of different people granted I have stayed here my actual job life. This is my 40th year but I have been involved with people that are literally all over the country.