Next Step For Lion Athletics

LMU athletics stepped into a new era in June with the hiring of Craig Pintens as the university’s athletic director. As senior associate athletic director for business strategies at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, Oregon, Pintens oversaw areas including revenue generation, community engagement, digital/social media, fan development initiatives and the university’s brand. He also has worked at Marquette University, the Jesuit university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he established attendance and revenue records in men’s and women’s basketball. He holds a law degree from Marquette University Law School and is a member of the Wisconsin Bar. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. Pintens interviewed by Editor Joseph Wakelee-Lynch.

Now that you’ve had a chance to observe LMU first-hand for a few weeks, what have you noticed close-up that you couldn’t have seen from afar?
The one thing you are never able to see from afar is the quality of people who work at LMU. During the process you receive a small glimpse, but once here it is energizing to be around people who are so passionate about LMU.

What is an athletic director’s greatest power?
The greatest power is making a difference in the life of student athletes. There is much attention in college athletics on providing a tremendous student athlete experience. The beauty of LMU’s athletics program is that it is so intertwined with the mission of the university. We want athletes to thrive academically, we want them to graduate, and we want to develop better citizens in the Jesuit tradition. Part of that experience is to compete and win championships. If you’re able to achieve all those things as A.D., then you’ve really achieved the ultimate. And that’s going to be the challenge once we get started.

Some of LMU’s most successful athletics programs are in women’s sports — soccer, volleyball, tennis, softball and water polo, for example. Is there something distinctive about the culture of successful women’s college sports that can shape an entire athletics department?
Clearly the women’s programs at LMU have had great success this past year, and many of them have great, young talent. You’re going to continue to see them have more success in the future, and that’s exciting. That can really provide a springboard for your whole institution. Winning begets winning across the board. I’ve been fortunate to be at places that have had successful women’s programs, and that can bring a spotlight onto your institution. That’s the same for any program, men or women. You want to have success across the board. You want to have broad-based excellence.

A growing concern in sports at all ages is the mental health of young people who play sports, from those in elementary school to those wearing their university’s colors. Are you planning to direct new resources toward this area at LMU?
First, I want to find out what resources are currently being pursued at LMU before I can adequately answer the question. However, that is a major issue across all college campuses, not just in college athletics but college in general. It’s something we need to spend a lot of time on, be very mindful of, and dedicate the right resources to. Part of the Jesuit tradition is to care for the whole person — mind, body and spirit. That’s something that gets bypassed in college athletics because there is so much going on and so much attention paid to the physical side of developing a student athlete. College is a very stressful time in a young person’s life, and when you add the stress of competing in a sport it certainly can lead to some issues. We want to provide the best student athlete experience, and part of that is making sure that we’re taking care of the emotional well-being of all students.

“We want people who are passionate about having a successful student athlete experience. We want to have coaches who when they’re provided with adequate resources will compete for championships.”

As is the case at many other universities, men’s basketball is a premier sport at LMU. How important is a winning men’s basketball program to your success as LMU’s A.D.?
It’s very important. Athletic directors are often judged by your flagship program, which is men’s basketball, regardless of success in other sports. We want to ensure that we have a great men’s basketball program because having one is going to bring a lot of attention to LMU, especially in the month of March. It not only elevates the other programs, it also provides tremendous exposure for all the great things that are happening on LMU’s campus.

Are there specific qualities you’d like to see in all your coaches?
We want people who are passionate about having a successful student athlete experience. We want to have coaches who when they’re provided with adequate resources will compete for championships.

There appears to be a great disparity in financial and physical resources between large public institutions and well-resourced private institutions on one hand, and smaller colleges and universities on the other. That disparity influences revenue streams, recruiting and, to some degree, tournament appearances. What should we do at LMU to counter the disadvantage of not having the resources that the major institutions have?
We need to develop a plan to unlock the resources that are available to us. While you want to be aware of what’s happening at other institutions, you don’t want to focus too much on what other people have. You want to adapt and find the resources that are going to work for you specifically. It’s critical for us to be able to fundraise at a high level, to get as many people as we can for men’s and women’s basketball, because those are revenue opportunities to help close any revenue disparity that there may be.