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Interview with Tom Wistrcill -- Akron's new athletic director

By mrasor Published: August 28, 2009

I spoke with Tom Wistrcill today. He seems like a genuine person, certainly passionate without being overly flashy.
He has been married for 16 years. He has two sons, ages 9 and 6. Wistrcill is an assistant coach for his oldest son's football team. He also likes to play golf in his spare time. He will start as Akron's athletic director on Sept. 10.
Here are parts of our conversation:
Mike Rasor: If a coach is graduating players and running a clean program, yet cannot field a winning team, does the coach deserve to be fired?
Tom Wistrcill: There are so many factors that go into evaluating a coach. (Tom mentioned community involvement, cohesiveness with the rest of the athletic department, and the athletes' social experience as other factors.) Certainly winning is an important one because this is Division I institution. We don't set upon a coach that you have to win national championships. But we should win MAC titles at Akron.
MR: What techniques in selling out Minnesota's stadium do you think would translate best to Akron?
TW: I don't know yet because I haven't been there. I have been successful in selling different things in different places. You have to have a knowledge of the environment. I will rely on the staff for that. Sales is hard. It is a hard job. There are some people who are cut out for sales. There are some who are not. The thing about sales is that you can have a great day, then start off the next day at zero. I am not going to come in there with any preconceived notions on how we are going to run things. That will be based upon once I get there and get a lay of the land.
MR: Are you inclined to bring in people who share your vision, or do you prefer to make it work with whoever is currently on the athletics staff?
TW: I told our senior staff that I assume they are the best at what they do. And we'll go from there. Obviously, things have worked pretty well there. Mack (Rhoades) and Mike (Thomas) before him did a good job setting things up for things to work there. I don't come in with any plan that some people are out the door. That is not how we are going to operate.
MR: What did you know about Akron before hearing about the job opportunity?
TW: What I did know about the MAC is that it's a great group of schools. (Former Miami AD) Joel (Maturi) loved his time at the MAC. What always attracted me about Akron is that it was in a city. Much like Akron, (at Minnesota) we're right up against Minneapolis. When you have a city that has its own culture and pulse, that gives you an opportunity -- as opposed to a small town, where you have to find a culture and corporate base. When I heard Mack was going to Houston, I said, "Here is a real opportunity." I called the search firm.
MR: What is your greatest weakness?
TW: Sometimes, it's hard for me to delegate because I'm a doer. I'm better at it now than I was five years ago and 10 years ago. I'm getting better at delegating, but that's being a type-A personality that I am. That is something that I constantly work on. When you get the right people in place, they should be better at their jobs than I am. When it happens, that's the perfect situation. I just set the guiding principles and let them chase it. That's what I'm anxious to get at the University of Akron. I spoke with everyone briefly. It seems like a good group.
MR: Do you plan to have Hunter Yurachek working under you?
TW: We had a brief conversation when I was there. It was a really nice conversation. Nothing was really decided in that meeting. We are going to talk again. I encouraged Hunter to stay. I know he's done good things here.
MR: What is your position on the Mid-American Conference? Can Akron do better? Is that something you will look into?
TW: It's important that we position ourselves to be ready if something happens. We need to raise more money. We need to win more titles. The conference landscape is going to change. Don't know when. Don't know how. We are very happy in the MAC, though. It's not something that is on my job duties.
(As we were wrapping up the interview...)
TW: I want to reach out to as many people as possible. I pride myself in a strong communication skill set. That's why I sent out that YouTube video. There are a lot of people who feel deeply about our program. We need to make them feel like they're part of it. ... I want to see people wearing Zips stuff everywhere in Akron.
Below is Wistrcill's welcome video from YouTube...

The PD's Elton Alexander picked Akron to win the MAC East. As he points out, the season-ending injury to Buffalo's star running back James Starks takes the Bulls out of the running.

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