Bob Stull on Mack Rhoades
New Missouri Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades does not have any direct ties to Mizzou. But the guy who gave Rhoades his first big break does. Former Tiger football coach Bob Stull hired Rhoades at 1998 as the executive senior associate athletics director at the University of Texas-El Paso.
We spoke with Stull on Monday about the next AD at Mizzou.
PowerMizzou.com: So if my timeline is correct, you gave Mack Rhoades his first big break back in 1998, is that right?
Bob Stull: "Jim Schaus, who was my first senior associate athletic director, he's now at Ohio University. We hired Mack in charge of development. Then when Jim Schaus became the athletic director at Wichita State, I promoted him to senior associate in charge of external relations. So he worked for me for about seven years. He did a great job. He's gonna be really good in Columbia. He's very personable. He and his wife, they're very, very warm, personable. A people person. He's a fundraiser, but he's really good with people. I think he'll fit in really well in Columbia."
PM.com: What did you see in Mack way back then? I guess he was about 32 years old when you hired him. Did you see him being this successful in his career?
BS: "Well, what I try and do in hiring is I always try and get people that I project to be successful, that have the qualities. The intelligence, the drive, the knowledge. I try to hire people that know more about what they're doing than I do in that area. I've been very fortunate in hiring in every area, but as far as senior associates and associate ADs, all of my guys have done well. Mack was a very bright and upcoming young guy in development and as he progressed and when Jim left, I felt like he was in position to be in charge of external relations because of his knowledge and his intelligence and his ability to work with people and to raise money. We gave him more than that. What I do with our senior associates, not only do we give them the external relations part, which is tickets and media and fundraising, et cetera, but also give you sports to manage so he gets that experience also. So, he was excellent. He was really good. The time he left here, he went to Akron and built a stadium there. He went to Houston, just built a brand new stadium there and redoing the basketball arena. So he'll obviously raise money, do very good with money. I know the president at Houston loves him. She's probably dying now that he's leaving. She just thinks the world of him. I'm sure she's very upset right now because she relied on him a lot. He'll do a good job. What we did here, when I first got here, whether it's compliance or facilities or fundraising, et cetera, five years you plan out. Then after five years, we would redo it. We're on our third one. He was involved in that process through the first five years. We did almost everything we set out to do including building a 55-thousand square foot football facility, including video boards and turf on the stadium, we built a softball stadium, offices and locker rooms. Then we started on our 45-thousand square foot basketball facility, which he left before we could finish that, but he was involved in the process. He's had really good experience. He's hired. He's been an AD now at two different places and has dealt with the media on an ongoing basis. He's prepared. He really is."
PM.com: I don't mean this to come off as insulting to Houston because I understand, that's a big school and a big-time athletic department. But when you make the move to that Power Five level, what are the differences in the job?
BS: "As far as the job, they're all the same. What they have to do, they have the same things you deal with. The media, fundraising, business, compliance, it's all very, very similar. The budgets are bigger. The way I look at it, it's much harder being an AD with a small budget than it is a big budget. Working and trying to win with a small budget is a lot different than trying to be competitive with a big budget, trust me. What he's done is gone into a place that typically has struggled and raised over a hundred million dollars and built a new stadium, I don't know exactly what that was, a hundred, hundred and fifty million dollars. And also doing things with the basketball arena, et cetera. The job is very similar. The intensity by which people follow it is much greater. So there will be a lot more interest. The one thing about Columbia that's different, and we've talked about this, Columbia is different than even some of the other markets because you have the number one school in journalism in the country and they have their own TV station, they have two newspapers, then you have the Columbia Tribune, then you have St. Louis and then you have Kansas City. The competition for media for stories is much greater, I think, in Columbia, than even perhaps in some of the even bigger markets because of the involvement of the journalism school and the competition between all three or four. He'll find out that there's a lot more interest, people trying to get stories, you know? There's certainly a lot more intense interest by alumni and fans when you have 50-thousand people going to those games. That's probably where there's a difference. As far as, you know, the day to day basis, you have the business, you have compliance, you have fundraising, you have the coaches and student-athletes, those are all very similar. It's just more of an intense scrutiny on a daily basis. Obviously, people ask me the difference between being a coach and an athletic director. Really, there's a lot more scrutiny on a day-to-day basis on the coach than there is the athletic director. The athletic director, if they don't like the coach, if things aren't going good, that's where he gets a lot of attention. If things are going good, nobody will pay attention to the AD. They'll just be all about the coach. I think the biggest challenge that anybody has in this business, as far as an AD, is hiring good people. If you have the right people working for you that are knowledgeable and hard-working and motivated, whether it's coaches or staff, that's what's gonna make it work. That will be, always, his greatest challenge."
PM.com: How closely have you kept in contact with Mack over the years and did you talk to him in the last week or so when he was considering this move to Missouri?
BS: "Yeah, I've talked to him. Certainly. We've always kept in close contact. We talk, you know, at least once a month or so, ongoing. We talked about it. He was very excited about the possibilities of that happening. Really, I think he feels like this is a dream job for him to be in the SEC, to be at the University of Missouri and he was very excited about the opportunity to interview for that."
PM.com: I guess it's been about 20 years since you were at Mizzou. The athletic department and the situation that Mack is walking into versus what things were like when you were here, how different are they? And what do you think about where that athletic department sits now versus where it was when you were here?
BS: "There's no comparison. First of all, my son lives in Columbia. My son's the head golf pro at Old Hawthorne. I'm back there five or six times a year. We go back all the time. I come and it's like I never left. I'm there all the time. I don't know if you know Gary Pinkel played for me. My first full-time job was at Kent State, he was a player and then when I was the offensive coordinator at Washington, he was the receivers coach for like seven years. I've known him since college. So we're really close friends...I'm there all the time. There's a dramatic difference. Mike's done a nice job, I think. When I was there, we didn't have, really, much of anything, quite frankly. I mean, we didn't have the financial support that you have right now. It's a dramatic difference. When I first got there in Columbia, you know the locker rooms that they have at the end of the stadium, the south end right now, those didn't exist. The locker rooms we went into were like 1950's. We didn't even have air conditioning. They were like cinder block. After the first year or so we built the locker room there. Then over across the street where the offices are, the weight room was only three thousand square feet and we had no meeting rooms, we had none of that stuff. After the third year, I went out and raised the money, we built on, the weight room became ten thousand (square feet), we had meeting rooms and the like, but nothing like they have now. The way they operate, too. We couldn't get kids into school in those times. It's a different ballgame. Everything was different at the time. But I tell you, they've done a really nice job. When Gary took the job, I said, there's some things that you need to do if you want to be competitive in that league. With what we were facing, that wasn't gonna happen. They made some changes and he addressed all those when he came in. I think they've really come a long way. I think they've done a wonderful job. I think Mike, through his tenure, obviously facilities have dramatically changed, everything's completely changed. Gary's done a wonderful job with the football program and I think Kim Anderson will do the same. He had a little bit of a tough situation coming in, but the whole physical plan has changed there. It's great. They've done a wonderful job. I think it's a really good place. I think they will continue to grow and Mack will help them do it, I think."