Mack Rhoades
Chat with UH Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades about all the happenings of the athletic department.
Mack Rhoades: Thanks for getting all the questions in for today's chat. Hopefully I'll be able to get to them all.

Kevin (Katy): Whats the scoop on future non-conference football opponents? Many schools are further along in their scheduling than we are.
Mack Rhoades: Philosophically we always want to play one AQ opponent however that is becoming increasingly difficult because our program is getting better and because many times in order to schedule those type of opponents like UCLA we are having to sign 2-for-1 contracts. There twice, here once. As we position ourselves going into a new stadium we need to make sure we are playing more home games than away. The top 25 programs, across the board they are playing at least 7 home games sometimes more. In the future we are going to try to get to a point where we have 7 home games. Our emphasis first is winning. we are still working on '12.

Charles in Houston: Mr. Rhoades. As you go around the country, do you find that UH athletics is becoming recognized as an emerging force on the college scene?
Mack Rhoades: Yes, I think people in the industry are beginning to recognize that there is great potential here and we are beginning to realize some of that potential. People have a belief that our program will continue to get better in all facets. The condition of our facilities, competitiveness, graduation rates, ticket sales, fundraising, etc. Additionally we have brought in some outside consultants to evaluate our program as a whole, thanks to the great work of our current staff, they have been extremely complimentary.

David Kirtley Houston TX: Mr. Rhoades,why are there no replica throwback jersies available for purchase?I know as soon as I read about them I went to the online store to buy one.It seems to me ANYTHING that raises the profile of our university should be done.Thank you for your time and all your efforts.GO COOGS!!!David
Mack Rhoades: We are excited to do the Throwback Day as well. They are currently being made by Nike and we will have them here for the team to wear against Marshall. We are also excited to have the ability to auction them off, which many schools have done, to our fans. I have heard great feedback from our alums about this.

Richard (Houston): Is there a "magic number" that UH must reach before breaking ground on the stadium, and if so, are we currently near that number?
Mack Rhoades: Based on a total project cost of $120 million we need to at least get to $80-85 million. Currently we are at 50 million and feel good about that number and are in the process of securing a naming rights gift, although this takes time. We are working with some very good prospects and I am thankful to our staff, because to be at $50 in 6 months is quite a feat given the fact that this amount of money has never been raised in the athletics department. In most instances a lead naming gift is the first to be secured, however given the changing landscape of college athletics this past summer we thought it was important for our industry to know we are committed to building a nationally competitive program.

Richard (Houston): If we do begin construction on a new stadium, where are our BB and FB teams most likely to play during construction?
Mack Rhoades: There is a slight possibility that the construction schedule could be adjusted in a manner where we could still play in both places. However, more than likely we would work with other local sports teams, those discussions have already taken place.

Matt-The Woodlands, TX: Is there a conditional offer from the Big East to join if the Stadium deal is done?
Mack Rhoades: No.

Dan, Sugar Land: How is it to work with Dr. Khator? It seems like she likes athletics?
Mack Rhoades: It is great. I want to give her a lot of credit in her belief in athletics and the benefits it can provide a university, especially one that is moving in a positive direction -- the latest designation as a Tier 1 institution. In order for an athletics department to be successful, you have to have a very supportive chancellor/president and Dr. Khator certainly is.

Chris (Katy): How are the football season ticket renewals coming so far? Are we on pace to increase season ticket sales from last year?
Mack Rhoades: Yes we are on pace and our goal is to get to at minimum 15,000 season tickets. This is one of the most critical elements we face in building the infrastructure of our athletics program. Last year our volunteers and our fans and our staff should be commended for an 82 percent increase that was recognized as the largest in NCAA FBS program. Have you gotten yours yet?

Billie, Houston: What has been the hardest coaching hire you have had to make at UH?
Mack Rhoades: The current one -- swimming and diving. The current process because of the circumstances (Mark Taylor's passing)

jim (houston): Assuming we have the funding for the new stadium how long will it take to demolish Robertson and have the new stadium in place for play?
Mack Rhoades: Not long. I wanted to add to a previous question of scheduling, that the state of our stadium presents a challenge of attracting quality opponents. However we will continue to try to orchestrate a competitive schedule despite this.

Greg: There were rumors of stadium naming rights coming within a week or so, can you update us on the progress?
Mack Rhoades: I understand there is a lot of speculation about timing of announcements I would caution everyone, unless it is released from our athletics department, I would not give a lot of credence to those rumors.

Randy (Houston): Do you regret hiring Coach Dickey? This was a tough basketball season for us alums.
Mack Rhoades: Absolutely not. We anticipated a tough season. But i have never been more excited about the future of a basketball program as I am now, or at any time at any institution. Coach Dickey and his staff have done a tremendous job in setting the foundation, establishing a culture for future success. We are extremely excited about the incoming recruiting class and the development of our young players. Candidly, our assistant coaches were coveted by many programs this offseason and because of Coach Dickey were have been able to retain all three at this point in time. Coach Dickey is a class act, a terrific X & O coach, terrific developer of talent and can recruit with the best of them.
Mack Rhoades: Building a nationally competitive program is not done overnight.

Victor (Houston): Can we expect to see any marquee schools on the basketball schedule next year? I am excited about next year's squad!
Mack Rhoades: I don't have a schedule in front of me, but I know we have a return game with LSU and a potential series with Arkansas and we will play Oklahoma at a neutral site. In the future as our program gets better, so will our schedule.

Michael (Houston): With the light rail coming to UH, do you see this alleviating some of the concerns about parking in the future? What are some other benefits it brings
Mack Rhoades: I don't anticipate the light rail impacting positively or negatively our parking situation. Parking concerns are a great problem to have. That means we have sold out crowds. Many top 25 programs across the country, people park at minimum a mile from the stadium. I hope this is a future problem of ours.

Jeff (COUGAR COUNTRY): Are you going to play in the UH staff golf tournament? What is and what was your favorite sport to play?
Mack Rhoades: Not a golfer. I work too much and it takes way too long. My favorite sport to play is basketball.

Michael (Houston): Can we get a live cougar on campus?
Mack Rhoades: (LOL) Certainly it is something we have talked about although there is no conclusion. With everything we are trying to accomplish it has not been at the top of the priority list. If we got one, would you take care of it?

Mary (Mobile): Social media, which I liken this chat to since I heard about it through our UH Facebook- good, bad, or a good-bad thing for schools in the 21stcentury
Mack Rhoades: Great question, like everything else it has positives and negatives. From marketing I really value social media as a way to connect with all of our various constituents. However, it can be a sensitive situation when dealing with student-athletes and what should and should not be posted via various social media outlets.
Mack Rhoades: It is something we talk to our student-athletes about and the responsibility they have to represent UH in a positive manner.

Elaine (Houston): What is the toughest part of your job?
Mack Rhoades: (with a smile) making all of you happy!

Robert (Houston): In the new stadium will there be club seating with private bar, concessions, etc? I have gotten spoiled at other Houston venues. Thanks Mack!
Mack Rhoades: Absolutely.

David (Houston): Is it reasonable to expect that the 2013 football season will be played in a new on-campus stadium?
Mack Rhoades: I really hope so. That is our plan, but until we secure a lead naming rights gift, it is uncertain.

Victor (Houston): Is the capacity for the new stadium still around 40K, or has that number been adjusted at all?
Mack Rhoades: We still believe the right size at this time is 40,000.

Mike (Chicago): Hi Mack. Any chance UH football will play any Big Ten schools or Notre Dame in the near future. I'd love to attend a game within driving distance. Thanks.
Mack Rhoades: The likelihood of Notre Dame is difficult and we have had discussion with Big Ten opponents but nothing has come to fruition, but we will continue to talk to various schools in the future.

Michael (Houston): What's your thoughts on a men's soccer team coming to the University of Houston?
Mack Rhoades: I love men's soccer. My previous insititution won the national championship this past season. However, due to budgetary constraints and gender equity challenges this would be extremely difficult to do at this time.

Richard (Friendswood): Why don't we wear more red and put Houston(big letters) on front of our shirts. UofH was red and Houston long before the professional teams were. Lets take the color and name back. People watching TV can quickly identify us then.
Mack Rhoades: I think most of our sport uniforms have HOUSTON and have gone away from UH. We are currently working with a logo design company and licensing and merchandising company about our brand. I am not saying that we will change our logos in the future, but we are going through the exercise to determine if the current logos are right for us locally, nationally and future merchandise sales. We will let you know as soon as we come to a conclusion.

John: Should we market our football to the casual NFL fan to take advatage of the possible lockout there? Maybe more radio spots on 610am or local network channels?
Mack Rhoades: Great question. We have had those discussions, but please know we hope for the Texans sake and fans of the Texans that there is an NFL season. If not, we will reach out to those fans in a strategic manner.

Greg (Houston): Once the lead gift is secured, is it safe to assume that we will have the $80-$85 million needed to start?
Mack Rhoades: That is a fairly safe assumption.

John (Friendswood): Strictly hypothetically, :-) , do you think it would it behoove the Big East to have two Texas teams rather than just one?
Mack Rhoades: Certainly you would think so, especially from a scheduling perspective. However, discussing conference affiliation is a difficult conversation to have publicly. Currently we are a member of Conference USA and a proud member. There is a lot of value in being in Conference USA. However, we owe it to the many people who have established a great tradition, to our fans, to our current coaches, student-athletes and staff, to always be mindful of improving ourselves and current status. The most important thing we can do at this time is make ourselves an extremely valued commodity for Conference USA and/or any future opportunity. To become a valued commodity we need to continue to graduate athletes, enhance facilities, sell more tickets (increase fan attendance) and become more competitive. I appreciate all the questions concerning conference realignment, I hope this addresses all them.

Victor (Houston): What can we do to combat the apathy shown by many of our alums and Houstonians concerning UH athletics?
Mack Rhoades: For us to take the next step, we really need our alums and fans to remain engaged through the great times and the challenges, i.e. last year's football season. Building a nationally competitive program the right way is not done overnight. We are committed to building the strong foundation so that we can become and remain nationally competitive. I have said to many people the best way to support our program is to be a season ticket holder, no matter our record or who we play, we need fans in the stands.
Mack Rhoades: I want to thank everyone for the great questions. I really enjoyed these past 50 minutes. I apologize, I need to head to a meeting (maybe a meeting with a potential naming rights :)!) Please let us know if you thought this was valuable and something we should do on a consistent basis. We are very grateful for your support. I will be starting a monthly blog on that will give a summary of what we have been working on for that time period. Any other questions can come to my email, Have a great day! GO COOGS