Jon Palumbo’s First 90 Days As The Director Of Athletics At Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

February 19th, 2019 | by Dan Gale
Jon Palumbo’s First 90 Days As The Director Of Athletics At Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
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Jon Palumbo

Jon Palumbo officially began his tenure as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Director of Athletics on October 15, after serving as the Deputy Director of Athletics at VCU. Palumbo, whose hiring was announced in September, has hit the ground running since taking over the Islanders program. Dan Gale recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jon Palumbo and discuss his first 90 days in office. Palumbo shared what he’s done since taking over at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, how he prepared to for the job, shares advice for other first time ADs, as well as what made Texas A&M-Corpus Christi the right fit.

Dan Gale: Tell us about your first 90 days at Texas A&M Corpus Christi and what have you discovered during this time?

Jon Palumbo: My focus for the first 90 days has really been to start building relationships. That goes for relationships with our coaches and staff, colleagues on campus, the Vice Presidents, and starting to get to know some of the deans and other folks around campus.

I’ve also been meeting with donors and community stakeholders that we’re going to be working closely with as we move forward. Jon Palumbo

I met with almost all our staff in the first 90 days. We still have a few more to knock out here in the next few weeks, but the goal of those meetings really has just been to get to know each other a little bit personally, hear their background and perspective on our department and their experiences. I wanted to understand what makes them tick. Those meetings have been helpful for me to gain an understanding of where we are as a department, our strengths and weaknesses, and where we have some opportunities. So that’s been great.

I also started just before basketball season. As the season was kicking off, I did a bunch of media and public appearances to try to build some momentum as the new AD coming in and use that opportunity to engage the community with the goal of encouraging people to come out and support our teams this basketball season. I’ve been able to get out to some practices and make a few road trips with the basketball teams, which is great in getting the opportunity to get to know our student-athletes a little better and interact with our coaches on those trips. We’re about halfway through basketball season, so I’ve had a chance to evaluate some things on the game operations/game presentation front and work with our staff on some areas we could improve in the short term, with an eye towards having time to do more planning in the offseason.

I have been asking a lot of questions, but really doing a lot of listening. I’m trying to soak up as much information as I can on how things are running here, where are some of the challenges day to day, the type of experience we provide our student-athletes and some things that might be holding us back from achieving at the level we can competitively. I’ve spent a lot of time with our President, Dr. Quintanilla, and some colleagues within the leadership team, to lay some groundwork for some projects we have coming down the line and start to formulate ideas for our strategic planning process that will start up a little later this Spring.

Dan Gale: Man, you’ve been busy during that time! Tell me what has been that biggest adjustment, from going a Deputy AD to now leading an entire department and having so many people that report to you. What’s been that biggest transition for you in this first 90 days, from your old role to your now current role?

Jon PalumboJon Palumbo: I think the main adjustment for me has just been a little broader scope and learning to prioritize the external priorities and the internal priorities. At my last job I had a lot of different areas I was managing, but it was mostly the internal operations, day to day, with some external interactions mixed in.

As an AD, you constantly have to manage both of those aspects of the job, and you have to do it really well. So trying to balance the priorities of getting out in the community and meeting people and engaging with donors and sponsors and media, but also handling student-athlete issues that pop up, and getting a handle on budgets and establishing expectations for your staff on how you want things done. So it’s just been much more of a balancing act. That’s the main adjustment.

Dan Gale: What advice would you give to a new AD that comes in to accomplish during their first 90 days after now knowing the adjustments that you’ve had to make? What would be the biggest advice that you would give to a new AD in how they can best accomplish managing both the internal and external expectations during that first 90 days?

Jon Palumbo: I think taking it all one day at a time and really taking time to be thoughtful about how you are making certain decisions. And ultimately, being patient.

That’s been probably the biggest challenge for me is I’m not by nature a patient person. I want to get up and go and get things done. But I think the biggest thing to understand is you have to take time to be thoughtful about some things you may want to change in the short term. Take time to establish the best way to implement those changes and take the time you need to do it the right way. Obviously, time management is important. I think anybody that gets to the AD level probably has a good handle on management of their time, but that really is important just to block off certain times of your day to go ahead and answer emails and make phone calls, and also being flexible in knowing that things may come up and you may have to shift some things around with your schedule.

Dan Gale: For you, what made Texas A&M Corpus Christi become that first AD job for you? What made it so appealing for you and your family to move down there?

Jon Palumbo

Jon Palumbo: The tremendous opportunity here! Obviously, I was in a great spot at VCU, but the opportunity to lead your own department, for me, that was something that I had my eye on for a while. And as this opportunity came up, it became apparent to me that there is just a lot of opportunity here.

The leadership of the President, Dr. Quintanilla, and her vision for athletics and the role that will play in raising the university profile in Corpus Christi but also the region. That was inspiring to me and really got me fired up about the possibilities here. The leadership team here at the university and the folks that the president has surrounded herself with – they really are invested in that vision and helping athletics be successful and be a catalyst for the university to take off.

We’re surrounded by sunshine and sparkling blue water down here in Corpus Christi, so that was certainly appealing. There’s a lot to attract student-athletes here, there’s a lot that our coaches can recruit to here. We’ve got a lot to build on here, and I think the city is hungry for a winner. As I’ve gotten to know our coaches and staff here, they really are excited about the direction that the president has set. For me coming in, her really setting that tone, that’s been fantastic. Our coaches and staff are fired up. They see that direction from the top of the university and to walk into a situation like that was very appealing to me.

Dan Gale About Dan Gale
Dan Gale has been working in and around college athletics for the past 15 years. He has worked in fundraising and operations at the University of North Carolina, Temple University and East Stroudsburg University. He spent the bulk of his career at CBS Collegiate Sports Properties in leadership roles at the United States Air Force Academy, Old Dominion University, Towson University and University of Maryland. Upon leaving college athletics, he spent four years in the private sector building companies focusing with college athletics in the areas of technology and secondary ticket sales. He is currently the President of Leona Marketing Group, helping athletic departments formulate their revenue generation strategies and negotiating their multimedia rights.

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