William Broussard isn’t officially the new athletic director at Southern University. Not yet. The SU System Board of Supervisors must still vote to approve Broussard at their meeting March 30 in Shreveport.
But if you haven’t yet heard (or read), Broussard was unanimously approved by the Board’s athletic committee Thursday, and all signs point to him getting the green light. You haven’t seen this many smiles from Board members since the Jaguars last won a Bayou Classic (in 2007!).
Obviously, when the time comes, Broussard has a whole lot of work to do.
What follows is the transcript of his 10-minute question-and-answer session with reporters after Thursday’s athletic committee meeting.
Aaaaand here we go:
“I’m incredibly encouraged by the board’s support today. … To be approved by the committee unanimously is a tremendous vote of support. I’m really appreciative of them, and really excited about the opportunity to come down to Baton Rouge and Southern University, and to get to work.”
“I’m just going to wait until the end of the month, and hopefully everything becomes official then. But I’m excited. I’m thrilled about the opportunity. And I’m really encouraged about the potential of this university — and in particular, this athletic department — to become successful across the board. And I’m excited about lending my efforts to that project.”
This might be up to (Chancellor James) Llorens, but are you able to start right away, as the approval (of the full Board) is pending?
“I’ll let Dr. Llorens commit to that. But we’ve had some discussion about some possibilities therein, but I’d prefer to let Dr. Llorens comment on that particular issue.”
Llorens: “He obviously can’t officially start as athletic director until the final Board action on the 30th. Dr. Broussard and I have had some discussions about possibly utilizing him in an interim capacity between now and then, just to get into the athletic department and start looking at some of the operations and being familiarized with some of those things before then. It will probably be in terms of being a short-term consultancy.”
Broussard, on his background:
“I began my career in athletics at the University of Arizona, where I worked in internal affairs and academics, primarily. As part of my graduate assistantship, I ran the writing center for the English department in athletics. Then I worked as an intern and graduate assistant in academics.
“I moved on to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, where I entered as an assistant athletic director (and) eventually became associate athletic director. I oversaw external relations, fund-raising, marketing (and) corporate sponsorship units there. I left that position last year to become the director of athletics at Centenary College in Shreveport, which was in the process of transitioning from Division I to Division III.
“That was some really good experience there — overseeing an entire staff, cultivating some relationships with the NCAA, which has been a worthwhile experience for me. I’ll have to continue that cultivation here, working with the re-certification process, should I be approved at the end of the month.
“That covers the last 10 years.”
For a program that’s been without an A.D. for about a year, what do you see as the biggest challenge?
“It’s similar to a new athletic director coming in, even if they’ve been without an athletic director for a month. I’m a new person, and so I need to cultivate relationships, learn about the student-athletes who are here (and) the coaches who are here, and their concerns. Spend some time reviewing policies and procedures, and ensuring that those are properly lined up, so the program will perform adequately and excellently.
“From there, really be accessible — whether that means to the media, to the alumni base (or) our donor base. They need to get to know me as well, if they’re going to trust me and be confident in me. They’re going to need to get to know me as well. So it’s going to be important to (spend) a lot of time relationship-building, making myself accessible.
“There’s probably going to be a lot of time on the road and a lot of time going to visit people. But that’s one of the best parts of the job.”
How did this whole courtship begin?
“Interestingly enough, around a year ago. A very good friend of mine, for a very long time, a state senator, had a chance meeting with Chancellor Llorens. He was talking about some of his ideas and some of his energy, what he had planned for Southern University.
“He came to Natchitoches, and we had a talk. He said, ‘Would you ever think about being at Southern University?’ I said, ‘Absolutely; I’d be thrilled to have the opportunity.’ But at the time, I was interviewing and within weeks of accepting the position at Centenary College, so obviously, that discussion got sort of tabled.”
“Here, recently, it just felt like the right time to initiate that conversation. And here we are. It has gone more smoothly than I could’ve possibly hoped. I couldn’t have designed it any better than this. Frankly, had you asked me a month ago, would I be here today, I don’t think I would’ve been as generous to myself as Chancellor Llorens and the Board have been to me, in terms of moving this process forward.”
Fund-raising will be a big issue. Can you elaborate on that?
“Institutional advancement is the name of the game. Institutions … are ramping up their efforts. It seems sort of counterintuitive to look at a country — and, in many aspects, a world — that’s in the middle of an economic decline, the number of capital campaigns you see being started up at colleges. But it’s become so crucial to identify alumni friends, donors, supporters, small businesses, corporations, who are invested in the mission of higher education in this country, and know how crucial it is that we provide those resources for young people to attain a college degree.
“I got involved with institutional advancement. I had a great opportunity to get into at Northwestern State University, and I’m happy to continue those efforts here, and to share the mission and goals of Southern University with the donor base, with corporations and small businesses who are going to be eager to support the mission here and be capable of doing what they’re doing.
“What I will bring that may differ from someone else is an approach that is more comprehensive. I don’t leave any stones unturned, and I’ll dig as deep into the donor base as I need to, and then come around for seconds, when it comes to trying to line up support. It takes that kind of vigor. It takes that kind of intensity. It takes you being that thorough, to identify those resources, and I’m more than happy and committed to doing that.”
Do you see a built-in (fund-raising) advantage because of Southern being in a market that’s a little larger? In other words, no offense, but Baton Rouge is not Itta Bena, Miss.
“That is absolutely true. Of course, no offense to our friends at Mississippi Valley. But no, being in a state capital, being in a large metro area — what I would imagine is the second-largest metro area in the Southwestern Athletic Conference — and the size of our alumni base, as well, provides a lot of opportunities. My sense of things coming in — and I’m new — but my sense is that there is still a lot of ground, a lot of area to plum for those resources. And frankly, (there’s) a great deal of support already in place. So those relationships need to me maintained and cultivated, as well, so that our current base of support remains intact.
“It’s an approach that’s multi-level. You have to maintain the relationships with your current donors, but you have to identify new ones, as well.”
I’m sure you don’t need someone to tell you that APR is an issue at Southern. Can you lay out your vision on how to get that ship righted?
“I think the short-sightedness that some people have when looking at APR (is), they tie an APR to an athletic program. An APR is an institutional product, and so the way that student-athletes perform, that an institution retains them, and how successfully they matriculate toward graduation, the entire institution has to be involved. They have to be invested in that success, and thusly, they have to be accountable when they’re not successful.
“Every aspect, from the initial recruiting process, who are coaches going after in recruiting, to what is the environment on campus and what our retention rate is here, what can be done to improve retention and student performance, what kinds of resources are being made available, in terms of tutors, in terms of software to track how active they are, and how inactive in participating and coming to study hall. And then finally, to the athletic director. The athletic director has to evaluate all of those procedures.
“It’s not enough to want. It’s not enough to care about it. It’s not enough to know it’s a problem. You have to have skilled people in all of those positions invested in the effort. One of the first things I’ll have to do is review where the problems are, if they’re particular sports. And then begin assessing where are the gaps and filling in those gaps.
“Many institutions in the NCAA have been penalized under APR. Many of them have emerged from it successfully. It is not rocket science. It is not even physical science. It’s not even difficult. The NCAA provides plenty of resources, and an action plan that you can follow to meet those goals. It just takes someone being there to make sure that they’re followed.”