BY JOSH COOK
Drake announced its new athletic director last month after a three month search. The Times-Delphic sat down with Brian Hardin to learn more about his goals.
Q: Why Drake of all schools?
A: Well, there are several things; it was university leadership.
When I was doing my due diligence and asking around, my first question was, “How’s President Martin?” I really believe that behind every great athletic department is a great president, and then you have to have a great board of trustees who can understand and appreciate the role that intercollegiate athletics plays on a college campus.
In this industry, you’re only one or two degrees away from knowing somebody who knows someone else so I asked around and some people who had some interactions with President Martin came back with rave reviews. You know, who he is as a man, who he is a president, what his feelings are on athletics.
And so that was when we got a chance to get into the interview process and that came across very quickly to me … he clearly understands the significance a successful athletic department can have on a university, specifically men’s basketball from his time at Gonzaga.
So it started there with university leadership and went to what’s happening on campus. Are good things happening?
And with the STEM building opening up, the commercial and residential property that’s going to go up across from Old Main, that’s helping to transform the campus and attract high-caliber students that come in – and that’s exciting for me.
The last piece was the city of Des Moines. I needed to find a place that my wife and kids can enjoy.
My wife is an attorney so we need to find a place for her to work during that day that will fill her passion.
I know there’s great school districts available for our boys. Our oldest is six and we’ve got twins at four, so they’ll be starting school soon.
It was a matter of where can we go that they can be a part of a diverse community that offers a lot of different things to them.
Q: Can you find success here? What does that look like?
A: The answer is a resounding yes.
We have some sports experiencing that right now. Women’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s tennis – to name a few. Volleyball has had a great year, football’s had some good wins.
So, in our history, each of the programs at various points have had success – it just becomes, how can we get that across the board?
My vision for Drake is to make it the model for the Missouri Valley Conference and re-affirm Drake as Des Moines’ hometown team.
By that I mean we want to have success academically, and Drake already checks that box.
We want to have success in the community, have our athletes out there, and we want to be a place that the community can come spend time with us.
And the last piece is having success in competition. If we can check off all three of those, and do it in as many sports across the board, that’s how we can separate ourselves from everyone else in this conference, and that’s what we should be aspiring to do.
In terms of being Des Moines’ hometown team, it’s all about finding ways to engage with the city and come onto campus. I think that will be an opportunity for us.
People always use the words “challenges” and “roadblocks”; I like to see them as opportunities. Every school has them, for us it will be engaging the local community here and getting people to support Drake Athletics.
They do a great job with Relays and coming out to see Jennie’s team, they do a great job there.
The town has clearly shown that, when the men’s basketball product is really strong, they’ll come out and support them.
What can we do to encourage them, build that relationship with them and convince them to come down?
Revenue generation, that’s everywhere across the country. Doesn’t matter if you’re at the biggest of autonomy five schools or a division III school, and we’re not different.
We need to find ways to maximize our resources. That comes through philanthropy, corporate partnerships, ticket sales, etc.
We’ll have to sit down and explore where our opportunities exist and how can we attack those to maximize that for our teams and our programs.
Q: What kind of opportunities are presented when trying to rebuild this basketball program, coming in with a newly hired head coach?
A: Well, looking at coaching staff first, I have total confidence in what Niko (Medved) is going to do here.
We will win in basketball with Niko here, I firmly believe that will happen.
I’ve had the ability to sit down and talk with him on a few occasions and I like what he’s trying to do.
Others in the industry that I respect greatly have offered feedback on Niko and it’s been great across the board.
He’s done this before, and that fact makes me comfortable that it will happen here.
We have some great pieces in place on the men’s basketball side; we have a good facility, great practice facility, our support for the team is in the top half of the conference.
We have the best market of any Valley Conference team to try to recruit to.
[Medved] has assembled a great coaching staff, so I’m excited about that.
When you look at the rest of the staff, to me, it’s just coming in, outlining what the vision is, being very clear what the expectations are, giving people the tools they need to have success, and then it’s holding people accountable.
I don’t mean to simplify it, but that’s just really what it kind of comes down to.
When I come here in December, I’ll embark on a long listening tour of trying to figure out where have we been, where are we now so we can put a plan together of where we need to be and how to get there.
I have no doubt that everyone will be able to understand; we’ll clearly articulate what their role is in that process and we’ll find a way to get there together.
Hardin will take over in December as Drake’s new athletic director, moving from Milwaukee back to Des Moines, his hometown.