“When I got hired here, 18 months ago, the football job was already open. Then, the day they announced me, our head basketball coach stepped down, so, before I stepped on campus, I had the two primary revenue-generating sports’ head coaches open. So, when I think back to what I’m really proud of, I think we made two really good hires in those marquis sports.” -UTEP AD Jim Senter
Jim Senter hadn’t even officially started his position as UTEP’s newest Director of Athletics and his plate was already full. As he was still finishing his tenure at the Citadel, he hired Dana Dimel as his football coach. Once basketball season ended, he found Rodney Terry to head up the basketball program.
“Then, not long after, our head rifle coach decided to leave and I made changes in volleyball and soccer, so I had to hire five new head coaches in 12 months. Then, of course, you are not just hiring head coaches, you are hiring their staff.”
He had an active first year on the job, but Senter is pleased with the new hires, as well as the staff that was in place long before he got there.
“These people became my teammates; I wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed with me. I’m so appreciative of all of the ADs over the years who gave me an opportunity to succeed. You know, that being said, there’s still a migration of staff that happens organically.”
He tells CollegeAD he’s spent a lot of time, effort and thought putting the right people in the right places.
“Everything rises and falls on leadership. This is a huge responsibly in making sure you hold coaches accountable and that you hire good coaches and they are the type of coaches who can move the needle.”
He’s also taken the athletic department through a pouring rights process, signed a new multimedia rights deal with Van Wagner and finalized an apparel deal.
Still, with all of this progress, Senter has his eye on a few challenges to overcome.
He’s been closely monitoring the upgrades to the Sun Bowl, UTEP’s stadium and concourse modernization project. This renovation will include premium seating in the GECU Terrace, additional food and beverage options, and enhanced accessibility. UTEP announced a $10- to $15-million, 16-month project, sponsored by GECU.
“The project is underway; we’ve already completed the initial phase tied to the concourses. Phases II is underway. We were told it would be a $10- to $15-million phase, but when it went out to bid it came back significantly higher, so we’ve had to go back to the drawing board with our architects to see if we can get the costs down.”
He also explains there are a few cultural components to overcome on top of the financial hurdles.
“We work every day trying to change the culture, and what I mean by that is telling people we can win here, we will win here, we expect to win here, we are worthy of winning here, but we have to do all the things that are within our power to make sure we do.”
Senter explains that if you haven’t won someplace in a while, people tend to start dwelling on all the reasons why they can’t win.
“We’ve got to get more and more people on our team, our staff, our coaching teams, our university system to believe we are worthy of winning.”
In addition to culture, Senter knows that revenue must come into focus. He says they need to drive revenue back to the institutions so they can do the things that allow UTEP to be competitive and successful.
“The pouring rights and multimedia deals are a part of it, but what it comes down to is selling tickets, attendance, and development and fundraising. We want people to be invested with us. Instead of just being fans, they are stakeholders in our success.”