Michigan Stateâ€™s Mark Hollis has been quite successful in his time as athletic director. He has built the Spartan brand, organized brilliant events, and overseen success in many sports. His efforts were honored recently, as he was named the top athletic director in the country in 2012 by Street & Smithâ€™s SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness
Daily. Hollis sat down for an interview with the media on May 24th, one day after the ceremony for his award in New York. He talked about many topics, ranging from his emotions at the event to football ticket sales to future building plans to his status at MSU. The major points of the forty minute interview are summarized chronologically below.
- Hollisâ€™sÂ overall impression of the ceremony:Â Â Â Â Â â€œLast night was a special night for Michigan State and my family.Â Â Â Â Â Â It was emotional.â€ He isnâ€™t normally in a position to pause and reflect,Â Â Â Â Â so the situation was a bit strange for him. â€œAthletic directors arenâ€™t normally placed in that kind of position… It was a bit surreal. It was anÂ event grander than I had envisioned.â€
- Hollis tookÂ Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio to the ceremony in New York. â€œThere couldnâ€™t beÂ two people who I would rather have by my side at an event like that
because I think that without a question, theyâ€™re the best combo in thoseÂ two roles in the country,â€ Hollis said. â€œTheyâ€™re two very close friends. IÂ think itâ€™s important to keep a business relationship with them but alsoÂ keep them as dear friends, because you are in those battles together.â€
- The greatÂ athletic director also recognized that not all of the credit goes to him: â€œWeÂ strive to keep opportunities for student-athletes here at Michigan StateÂ 0in 25 sports. I think we do an amazing job, so that award last night isÂ shared by a lot of people. Iâ€™m keeping the Tiffany Crystal Trophy butÂ everybody has a piece.â€ By â€œeverybodyâ€, Hollis includes the media. He saidÂ that he â€œappreciates the support from the mediaâ€ and that the media does â€œan amazing job.â€
- When askedÂ about how he balances his family (a wife and three great kids) and work,Â Hollis teared up a bit. â€œBeing in this business is a challenge with familyÂ life. Itâ€™s stressful. They get a lot of great opportunities, but they allÂ miss their Dad.â€ But though the challenge of balancing work and family canÂ be tough, the father of three children and Athletic Director of 25 sportsÂ is fond of his position. â€œI love this place, I love my familyâ€¦ All theÂ good they get outweighs the frustration.â€
- Hollis wasÂ asked about how he balances love for the university and being compensated fairly.Â Â â€œMy heart is to do what we can for student-athletes and put them in theÂ Â Â Â Â best position they can [be in],â€ he responded. â€œWe have an athleticÂ department that does a lot with a little. At the same time, you want to beÂ compensated where your counterparts are. We live in a society ofÂ comparisons.â€ But fear not, MSU fans: â€œI have met with President SimonÂ over the last several months and we are in a good place as far as what myÂ future is at Michigan State.â€ Hollis concluded his thoughts on the topicÂ by saying: â€œI think weâ€™ll be here for a long time based on that. Iâ€™m notÂ ready to announce anything right now, but I feel good with where weâ€™reÂ at.â€
- The focus thenÂ shifted to the four team playoff in college football. Though HollisÂ recognizes that no one has all the answers right now, he does know whatÂ direction he wants the playoffs to head in. â€œThe regular season has to beÂ the focus of whatever we do. We need to put more emphasis on what theÂ student-athlete wantsâ€¦ they want a bowl experience, they donâ€™t want an NFLÂ playoff experience.â€ One bowl in particular Hollis sees as valuable to theÂ kids and to the Big Ten Conference is the Rose Bowl. In terms of onlyÂ allowing conference champions to compete, Hollis believes the systemÂ should â€œlet the regular season play out who the [conference] champion isÂ and letâ€™s throw them up against each other.â€
- But beforeÂ a playoff system is implemented, Hollis wants to see a strength ofÂ schedule measure added. He pointed out that MSU plays a toughÂ non-conference schedule and competes in a tough conference. But sinceÂ flexibility in scheduling non-conference games allows other schools toÂ play easy teams, Hollis thinks that â€œstrength of schedule has to beÂ reviewed before the awards are given out at the end of the year.â€
- Hollis wasÂ also asked about the Big Ten and if it is in rest mode. The answer was no:Â â€œWe will protect our brand, we will protect the Big Ten conference on anyÂ decision made on a national basis. In this industry, you learn never toÂ get comfortable, you always have to watch and observe and respond to theÂ decisions that others are making.â€ One aspect about the Big Ten whichÂ Hollis likes is similar core values, which allow the schools to solveÂ almost any problem.
- The leaderÂ of MSU athletics was then asked about projects, current and in the future,Â which are under consideration. At the top of the list of current projectsÂ is renovating Spartan Stadium. Hollis promised that a new audio system, asÂ well as new video boards, will provide an â€œunbelievableâ€ experience forÂ fans. In the future, he also would like to remove some of the clutter fromÂ the stadium to ease the pressure on the concourses. Hockey is alsoÂ grabbing his attention, as he is leaning toward a renovation of Munn IceÂ Arena.
- One issueÂ plaguing Hollis is a struggling softball program. â€œThereâ€™s no one in thisÂ athletic department thatâ€™s happy with a 0-23 record,â€ Hollis stated. ButÂ that does not mean that he will make any rash decisions to correct theÂ problem. He will retain head coach Jackie Joseph and review the season toÂ see where it went off the rails. â€œItâ€™s easy to fire a coach; itâ€™s not easyÂ to retain a coach whoâ€™s 0-23. That puts it on my shoulders to guide her.â€Â Â Hollis later went on to say: â€œWeâ€™re going to give it a go and see if weÂ Â Â Â Â can pull some magic out. Softball is extremely important to me.â€Â Hollis made it clear that he supports Coach Joseph, “For now.”Â Perhaps the biggest indication of what Spartan Nation has previously reported about her needing to make MAJOR improvements to keep her job after next year.Â Emphasis on MAJOR.
- FootballÂ tickets are also on Hollisâ€™s mind. With the recent opening of ticketsÂ online, sales are up by 6,000 from last year, despite an increase in theÂ price. The department is currently taking a pause in sales, and the situationÂ will be evaluated again on June 1st or soon thereafter. HollisÂ is feeling great about the situation now, as he was previously worriedÂ about the price increase: â€œAny time you impact peopleâ€™s livelihood andÂ spending money, youâ€™re concerned,â€ he said. But, as he said earlier in theÂ Â Â Â Â interview, â€œWeâ€™ve been pretty conservative in what weâ€™ve done here…There was a lot of thought, a lot of consideration that went into it [theÂ price increase].â€
- When oneÂ reporter asked how Hollis would like to make the Michigan State experienceÂ better, the successful athletic director revealed his vision. â€œDisney isÂ the happiest place on earth; we want to make this the second happiestÂ place on earth.â€ He realizes that some of that involves fan behavior, butÂ Hollis sees the school taking more of a leadership role in ensuring thatÂ every aspect of the MSU experience is great.
- Much of theÂ remainder of the interview was about speculation on the future. SomeÂ interesting tidbits that Hollis revealed:Â HollisÂ would like to see the athletic department have â€œglobal outreachâ€ in theÂ future.
- There areÂ some milestones coming up in the next year that will celebrate the
schoolâ€™s history and tradition, so â€œnext year is going to be a little bitÂ about home.â€
- If thereÂ is another Carrier Classic sometime in the future, Hollis would like for
it to be in Florida.Â He wants toÂ keep the football game on the Friday of Labor Day weekend.
- HollisÂ would prefer to play Michigan in football near the end of the seasonÂ rather than in the middle.
- TheÂ football team will not be getting a unique jersey from Nike this year,Â but may sometime in the near future.
- The hockeyÂ team will be adding a third jersey with a retro look, which will serve asÂ the teamâ€™s alternate uniform.