It is July. School is out. If ever there is one, this is the perfect time to be an athletic director at a major university.
Nobody gets charged with recruiting violations in July. The alumni aren't calling up, asking for prime tickets to games this weekend. There are no coaches to fire inJuly; no losses to suffer. Most ADs look at July the same way Santa's elves look at July.
Those that have been around awhile usually kick back and lay low, or both. For instance, Rod Tueller, the Utah State athletic director, is in Chile this week, conducting basketball clinics.
But the new guys in Utah, Chris Hill and Mike Price, were at their desks this week just the same. Neither one has been employed long enough to accrue sufficient vacation time to take July off. Hill has been the AD at the University of Utah about seven months now; Price has been the AD at Weber State College, officially, seven days.
Besides, these two young urban professionals - they are among the youngest athletic directors in the nation - haven't been through enough seasons to truly enjoy July. They'd just as soon it was over. They're spending most of their time thinking ahead about the good new days.
At Utah, Hill is anxious about a future that will revive interest and enthusiasm in Utah sports, particularly football.
"There are some good old day things I want to bring back, that I think people are ready for," says Hill. "You know, the traditional things. I want to see an atmosphere here that makes people want to be on our campus. Like at Wisconsin, they have that great tradition of their fifth quarter, where everybody stays after the game and celebrates. The whole city is alive with the University of Wisconsin. When the Utes are playing we want people to realize it's a Utah football weekend."
Hill is establishing focus groups to research the wants and needs of the Utah students, and alumni, and determine what will bring them out in droves so large that Fifth South will be turned into a traffic logjam for hours after the games.
"We're going to make a lot of changes in what we're doing promotionally," he says. "We want the people to come out. We want students painting their faces. We want excitement.
"Hey, we're talking about the day - and I realize this is down the road - where we're walking out of a 55,000-seat Rice Stadium," Hill continues, his New Jersey accent rising a notch.
He makes you want to believe. He makes you want to reach for your wallet and c-o-n-t-r-i-b-u-t-e. He makes you wish it was September.
So does Price, who says, when asked about his goals for Weber State . . . "Well, in football we're going to win a national championship."
Besides being the athletic director, Price is Weber's football coach.
It is not hard to get him started.
"In basketball, we're going to, well, you know, go at least to the second or third round of the NCAAs," he says. "We're going to be a basketball power once again. We're going to fill the Dee Events Center for our basketball games, and fill the football stadium, and when we're on the road our games will be on television."
Although perhaps not any of the above necessarily this year.
But soon, brother, very soon.
"There's going to be a time when you can't buy your way into the stadium," says Price. "We have to do it two ways: by winning, and by promotions. That's what we're stressing. We're going to announce a new ticket policy soon for basketball - one that is fair. We're going to ask for donations, not tell people they have to donate.
"What are our promotions?" says Price, who has been on the job a week. "Well, right now, to tell you the truth, I'm a little consumed with some short-range goals. I have to fill the position of an assistant AD, of a ticket manager, of an assistant ticket manager, of a women's basketball coach, and I have to restructure the Wildcat Club. And I have to get all that done by August, before football starts . . . We're going to have a lot of fun at the football and basketball games. We're going to be creative . . . But I haven't got that little baby figured out just yet. I'm doing too many interviews."
He's also blowing the cakewalk-in-July image for athletic directors.
Still, it's clear neither the new AD at Weber State, nor Utah, is dreading the end of summer vacation. These guys are so new their enthusiasm squeaks. They can't wait for the first day of school.