Hartzell believes basketball success vital to raise athletic program

Bob Galuski, Editor-in-Chief

Rick Hartzell, one of three candidates for athletic director, came to Eastern’s campus Monday with ideas on how to improve on the program, citing men’s basketball as a point for success.

Drawing on his experience as athletic director at Northern Iowa, Hartzell said it was a marked improvement on the campus after the men’s basketball team went to the NCAA tournament five out of seven years.

Hartzell said he believes the program can be “elevated” by having Eastern’s men’s basketball team go against higher-ranked teams within the NCAA.

Although he supports women’s basketball – “Nobody will be cheering louder at their games,” he said – Hartzell said the reality of how it is perceived by the outside of

Eastern is that more people will pay attention to men’s basketball.

He said the idea is to maintain the culture set at Eastern where within each team’s culture, the players realize they are still important in order to build the program “inside out.”

Hartzell also made points in how impressed he was with Eastern’s status and records, especially after seeing some of the facilities on campus – including the weight room and locker room.

“They’re behind the times,” he said.

However, Hartzell said he does not see that as a negative, but rather a positive, as Eastern has been able to maintain it’s various records even in the current conditions.

Along with updating areas on campus for athletes like the weight room and locker rooms, Hartzell said he would like to see other improvements: a lighted soccer field and bathrooms at the baseball games, for example.

Other changes he said he would work toward is scholarship funding.

“When you’re not fully funded, you’re hamstringing the coach,” he said. “You need to give the kids the best to play at their best.”

Hartzell said he realizes the trick to success is working with the university on different matters.

“I’ll work the rooms,” he said. “I’ve asked people for millions and had them say yes, and I’ve asked people for millions and had them say no.”

He said he would be up for fundraising for different aspects of campus.

“I’ll raise money for the library as much as the weight room if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Hartzell was athletic director at Northern Iowa until 2008, when he said he left on principle after he disagreed with how two different sports – wrestling and baseball – were being dropped.

“It wasn’t that they were being dropped,” he said. “It was how.”

Despite this, he said he has no problem with cutting different programs if the situation calls for it.

Hartzell is one of three finalists for the athletic director position.

Tom Michael, the senior associate athletic director at the University of Illinois, is up next to give his say at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Ike Kennard Club Room of Lantz Arena.

Jim Sarra, the deputy director of athletics at the University of Texas San Antonio, will round out the interviews at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Ike Kennard Club Room of Lantz Arena.

Bob Galuski can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].