Rhoades, 43, has been the athletics director at the University of Akron since 2006, overseeing a period of unprecedented growth in the Zips athletics program that includes a new $54 million on-campus football stadium scheduled to open in the fall, an indoor football practice facility and student center, and plans for basketball arena improvements to begin in the spring.
Under Rhoades’ leadership, Akron also made significant progress academically. The Zips entered the 2008-2009 calendar year with 478 Deans’ List honorees since Rhoades arrived to go along with 16 championships won, including 10 Mid-American Conference Players of the Year and nine All-Americans.
Rhoades came to Akron from the University of Texas-El Paso, where he rose to the position of executive senior associate athletics director. He also has been on athletic staffs at Yale and Marquette universities.
In selecting Rhoades, Khator said, “First and foremost, I wanted someone who is passionate about the University of Houston and UH athletics.”
Rhoades will be formally presented to the University of Houston community and the media at 11:30 a.m., today at the Great Hall of the Athletics/Alumni Center. He emerged as the selection of choice following an extensive national search conducted by an 11-person committee appointed by Khator.
In evaluating the candidates, the committee focused on recommending a candidate with strong leadership qualities, the ability to engage the UH community, ensure that the athletics program remains on sound financial footing and someone who will take an active role in community relations and fundraising – particularly for stadium construction. Rhoades has these qualities in abundance, the committee agreed.
“We are building a Tier One university, and we will build a Tier One athletics program,” Khator said. “Academics is the cornerstone of our athletics program – we are training student-athletes, and that will remain our focus. Dave Maggard did a lot to advance our academic standards, and we want an AD who will build on that and keep academics as the first priority. Winning games is important, but helping young people be winners in the game of life is essential. Mack Rhoades understands that this is what I expect.”
In overseeing 16 intercollegiate sports offerings at UH, Rhoades will face a number of significant challenges, many involving issues and initiatives similar to those he successfully managed at Akron.
UH has been instrumental in the process that helped attract the NCAA Basketball tournament to Houston. Reliant Stadium will host the South Regional in 2010 and the Final Four in 2011 and 2016. The university also is considering a bold proposal to upgrade its 32,000-seat Robertson Stadium – including increasing amenities and the seating capacity of the 68-year-old campus edifice. The Houston Cougar football team and the Houston Dynamo professional soccer team play their home games at Robertson.
Rhoades will be expected to build on the recent success of the football team, which last year earned its first bowl victory in 28 years under the leadership of Kevin Sumlin, as well as ensure that all of the university’s intercollegiate sports remain competitive in Conference USA.
As Khator emphasized, a major thrust will be to oversee the continued improvement of graduation rates of UH student-athletes, which rose from 27 percent to 59 percent during Maggard’s tenure. During Rhoades’ time at Akron, the graduation rate of student-athletes rose from 60 percent in 2006 to 78 percent in 2007 and 68 percent a year ago.
Sumlin said he is excited about the hiring of Rhoades.
“He brings a wealth of experience to UH,” Sumlin said. “He knows Texas, and he knows our conference. The experience he gained at UTEP will be invaluable to us. He did great things at Akron, including having success in fundraising and building facilities.”
The university hired the Atlanta-based search firm of Parker Executive Search to assist the committee in the search, which produced a number of candidates with impressive credentials. The committee represents a cross-section of university life that typically interacts with university athletics. Ken Bailey, an attorney, former UH quarterback and current fundraising campaign chairman for athletics, and Carl Carlucci, executive vice president for administration and finance at UH, served as co-chairs of the committee.
Richard Scamell, a professor in the Bauer College of Business and the faculty representative on the search committee, said he was highly impressed by Rhoades’ credentials.
“I consider him as clearly the best choice to lead the department of athletics at the University of Houston at this time,” Scamell said. “He comes across as a ‘leads by example kind of person’:someone who is a team player, a good listener, a hard worker and a most sincere person.
“He has initiated and been actively involved in academic programs at the University of Akron that have led to increased success in the classroom. While at Akron, he implemented a class attendance policy for student-athletes and also a student-athlete code of conduct. Although the federal graduation rate at the University of Akron is 35 percent, the federal graduation rate for student-athletes is close to 70 percent. I believe our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the university community will enjoy working with him.”
Other committee members are Jacob Monty, UH System Board of Regents; Wilhelmina E. “Beth” Robertson, UH donor and former chairwoman of the Board of Regents; Beth Madison, UH alumna and donor; John O’Quinn, UH donor for whom the football field at Robertson Stadium is named, and former UHS Regent; Michael Rierson, vice president for University Advancement; Judie Lilie, chairwoman-elect, UH Alumni Association; Kenneth Fomunung, student representative; and Leroy Burrell, UH head coach, track and field, former U.S. Olympian and gold medal winner, and staff representative.
Rhoades received a master’s degree in sport management/marketing from Indiana University and a bachelor of science degree in health sciences from the University of Arizona. He and his wife, Amy, have three children: Nicolette M. Rhoades (15), Natalie M. Rhoades (13) and Noelle M. Rhoades (11).
|WHAT||Mack Rhoades named AD at the University of Houston|
|WHEN||11:30 a.m., today (June 11)|
|WHERE||Directions to this building from
I-45 South (downtown)
- exit Cullen
- turn right on Cullen
- turn right at parking lot 15G
The press conference video is available online.