Mark Alnutt Q&A
Athletic Director recaps first year on the job and plans moving forward
Q: How has your first year been while being away from your family back in Memphis?
A: It’s been tough. I'm a huge family person, and just missing the day-to-day, the interaction, the events, and I was down in Memphis last weekend and had progress meetings in Arizona. And so I just had an opportunity to catch three baseball games and a track meet, just those things that I missed.
But also on the same token, we had opportunities where we could spend some critical time together, you know, their spring break or corresponding with them [when we were in] Cleveland, so they had a chance to go out for the MAC Championship game. Obviously, the bowl game in Mobile, five hours away from Memphis and that was connected with the holiday. Throughout the past 13 plus months, you know, it's time to get together.
But OK, look at the positive of that, it really gave me the opportunity to focus on the job at hand. Working with the people that I work with within the athletic department, but also, you know, being out and active in the community, and also, from a university standpoint as well. So it's been good. Would I do it all over again? I don't know. But I'll tell you what, I mean, there's definitely some benefit, because that family aspect was removed and allowed me to do some things that I probably [wouldn’t have] been able to do if my family was here.
Q: What have you learned on the job here at Buffalo in your first year?
A: First of all, I wanted to connect with people, first and foremost, with the staff, and get to know our staff, and obviously do the SWAT analysis of what's worked in the past and what’s not working, what we need to be better at, and being able to formulate a plan.
From that, to be able to communicate within the various units within the department, communicate at a higher level and be able to work together to try to break down silos. So for us that was something that we're constantly working on, but I feel that we're better now than we were beforehand, but then also, and this is just more of my leadership style, to be able to allow individuals that had certain units, so I'm talking about head coaches and give them the autonomy, so to speak to them to be able to work within their lane, and then be able to work together with each other and be able to, maximize their best efforts.
So not being that micromanager that they need to do this, this and this. I want to be informed, I want to know what's going on and allow them to come in terms of, ‘Hey, this is something that I need, that we will be able to perform better if we if we do this and try to find the best way possible, to make that work.’ Also in terms of having a relationship, Dr. Tripathi and being on the cabinet. So being able to force those type of relationships for support, and then you go to the community too. You have to be active in the community, you have to be somewhat embedded in the community. And one thing that I learned, from all this is that it’s a very prideful region.
Definitely when it comes to community standpoint they want to follow a great product, they want to follow a winner, and what we were able to do that and engage folks and bring more people in. So, we need to continue to do more of that.
And when I say, bring more people, and I'm also looking under students to it, I think we put forth several initiatives with the students, forged a good relationship with Gunnar Haberl the student association president in terms of some things that we can do together.
And that showed, with the higher attendance at football this year, as compared to last year, and then also, the attendance in basketball and everything else. And there's a lot that it's not all because of me, obviously it’s the team that we have all working together and try to provide what's best for the university.
Q: At UB, we’ve won the MAC award for diversity and inclusion, are there any initiatives you've taken from that role here and try to continue doing that?
A: I think for us is to be open and be in lockstep with the University because also, I look at the University from a diversity standpoint, in terms of what we're doing, and really be cognizant of the needs of our student athletes needs of our staff.
Whether it's LGBTQ, whether it is international students, whether it is underrepresented minorities in so many different areas, OK? How can we be reflective of what our student body looks like, what our community is all about, but then also be able to provide a resource for our student athletes, when they come to a place where, you know, a lot of folks might not look like them, or might not, you know, come from the same environment that they have.
I mean, we swept the awards. Then talking to our student athletes, especially our student athlete advisory committee and our president Devon Patterson, who's on our track team, being able to listen and be able to provide that support in terms of ‘Hey, what can we do to be able to support those initiatives, which also include mental health awareness, you know. That's important for us to provide that resource and that experience for student athletes.
Q: What does it do from an athletic standpoint to now see a larger growth of Buffalo athletes within professional leagues, like Cierra Dillard, Tyree Jackson and so on?
A: What it means that when you when you come to Buffalo it shows you don't need to go to a power five, to get the experience, to get the notoriety. That you can come to Buffalo, and proof with Khalil Mack and then the student athletes that you mentioned. So it means a lot, but also to, it brings an additional exposure to our university when we have those opportunities to play in a championship game, playing a bowl game of football, or even, you know, go through the MAC tournament play in the NCAA, you know, there's a lot this written about, there's a lot that is out there about UB.
Before I was here last year, when I was following along, and what, it's not just prospective student athletes that are looking at a university, during that time, these prospective students are looking at the university and if your name is constantly out there. Why not click on the website, and then know more about Buffalo. This is a phenomenal school for engineering, phenomenal school for business or School of Pharmacy, whatever the case might be just know more about Buffalo.
And what do you mean it's only 20 miles away from Niagara Falls? Man, that's one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Why not? For us to represent this university at high level to add value and benefit to diversity is something that definitely you take pride in.
Q: And for you -- being a former student athlete -- how does it really help your understanding of what students are going through here or trying to, you know, get them involved within a collective vision of what Buffalo is trying to do?
A: It's definitely part of it is just having that experience that I had, and the reason why I do what I do. It’s because of the experience I had as a football student athlete. The only piece that I was missing is that we weren’t very good.
So, but to me the great thing about my experiences that it kept me connected to my university, so long. So for us we want to do the same thing. I understand what the student athlete goes through, even though there's a couple generations between me and today's student athlete, but it's essentially the same when you look at it.
Your schedule and being able to perform various roles, being able to multitask, time management. Obviously the stress with everything that's involved. So I understand, even though we're still learning with everything we do, I understand what they're going through and what are some things that I can do to help guide them through that through a process to help prepare them for life after sports. So that's, that's what I think of bring some additional value for being here.
Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at Nathaniel.firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NateMendelson