It was a sunny spring afternoon as I made my way alongside the throngs of people walking beside me, blending into the crowd as best I could. The rolling green lawns had been meticulously manicured, the dotting palm trees trimmed to perfection, all in anticipation of those who would be visiting that day – many for the first time. In the distance, the blue waves of the Pacific lapped against the shores of Playa Del Rey and Venice Beach. If someone had dropped you unsuspectingly where we now stood, your first inclination would be to believe you were somewhere on the Amalfi Coast of southern Italy, rather than on a college campus in the middle of busy Los Angeles.
It was the week of the Pac-12 Golf Championships, and I had taken the opportunity to check out Loyola Marymount University on a Sunday afternoon. Unbeknownst to me, it was preview day 2018, so instead of roaming campus alone, I was alongside hundreds of potential students and their parents. Naturally, I wanted to check out the athletic facilities, particularly Gersten Pavilion, which everyone seemed to gravitate toward. As I walked in, I was fortunate to stumble on University President Timothy Law Snyder speaking. As I listened to him address the room full of future students – explaining how Loyola Marymount would work with each and every one of them to provide an incredible collegiate experience – I could not help but be impressed by how the university seamlessly wove its Jesuit and Marymount mission with its goal of developing women and men for and with others in all aspects of their lives.
As athletic administrators, we spend our careers looking for the right opportunity – an institution that aligns with our values, one that allows us to leverage our experiences and skillsets to tackle and slay great challenges. After more than fifteen years in collegiate athletics, LMU is a culmination of that pursuit. A beautiful campus with an outstanding academic reputation and located in the creative capital of the world, endows LMU athletics with a foundation to create something truly special.
The opportunity at LMU can be described in two simple words – commitment and alignment. The university community, led by Dr. Snyder, is wholly committed to making athletics an important part of LMU. I’ve heard he sits in the student section at basketball games, which is quite the statement to that pledge. Moreover, there is a commitment to winning at LMU. I’ve had an opportunity to experience that at Oregon at the highest level and understand what that truly means; it’s not just financial but encompasses all aspects of successful organizational management.
Commitment must align with your strategy and vision. The “student-athlete experience” is the cliché buzz slogan in college athletics these days – everyone says that’s their department’s ultimate pursuit, but rarely do they back it up with the substance necessary to make it true. Yet at a Jesuit school like Loyola Marymount there is a unique opportunity to do just that, as at the heart of the university’s mission is Cura Personalis – care for the whole person (mind, body, spirit). The values and pursuit of the institution itself are inexorably tied to shaping each of its students in every aspect of their being, and is the ideal mission of all collegiate athletic programs.
As I take over at Loyola Marymount, Cura Personalis will make up one pillar of our athletics program, the other will be the Jesuit ideal of Magis, which translates most simply into “more”. At Oregon, everything we’ve done has focused on creating the best outcomes possible for our student-athletes. In undertaking any endeavor, whether we are successful in its execution or not, we always ask ourselves, “how might we do better next time?” The same cultural underpinnings will be a part of our work at LMU. We will seek to become more efficient and effective in every aspect of our work. There’s always a better way to do things.
Those two pillars – cura personalis and magis – will support our core values that will be pervasive in every aspect of the Loyola Marymount Lions’ culture. They include:
Passion – We will strive to create an exemplary student-athlete experience that will live up to the Jesuit ideals of Loyola Marymount. We will be passionate about learning, educating the whole person, servicing our faith and promoting justice in every aspect of our athletics community and beyond.
Positivity – We must find ways to make things happen, even when everything seems against us. We will never dwell on what we don’t have, we will never say “we can’t do that”. Instead, we will find solutions to create the best possible outcome for our student-athletes.
Curiosity – In the heart of a dynamic global city, Loyola Marymount athletics will become a beacon for innovation, ideation and growth.
Winning – We will compete with integrity while focused on our stated goal of competing for championships. Our culture will embrace winning as part of a successful student-athlete experience.
Our journey will not be an easy one. We must start today, which means support from our university, our athletics’ coaches, staff, administration and our Lion community. We must work together to continue to develop a sense of pride in LMU. Our students today are our ambassadors tomorrow. It’s up to us to instill a sense of belonging and allegiance that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Many of my colleagues and mentors in college athletics – leaders like Rob Mullens and Shawn Eichorst – have told me that it’s simply “different” when you are in the chair for the first time. This is a challenge I’ve prepared my entire career for and am excited to undertake. As I walked through campus just over a month ago, all I saw was opportunity. It’s time to turn those opportunities into reality. GO LIONS!