“Athletics, academics and being of service to others have been a really strong influence in my life. My mom made us maintain our grades to be allowed to play sports, and she also lived a life of service, so I learned a lot about how to give back and how to treat people from her.” -Mario Morris
Mario Morris will soon be of service to a new, elite student-athlete population. After having served as the chief financial officer for the University of Wisconsin athletics department since 2015, he was named the University of Notre Dame’s Deputy Athletics Director for Business Operations this past spring.
“Coming from a student-athlete background, I understand fully this opportunity to be of service and give back to the community that gave so much to me,” he says. “I work hard every day to make sure we try and fulfill our promise of providing that educational opportunity for them.”
Morris will be doing his part for student-athletes in a newly created position responsible for the planning, monitoring and managing of the athletic department’s financial activities. He will be at the heart of the department’s core business functions and at the helm of a new team at one of the top universities in the country, and he’ll be taking the lessons from an entire career along with him.
“There was a sign on the practice field at the University of Alabama, and it said ‘I will not return from this area until I have improved,’ and it’s something that’s stuck with me,” Morris explained. “And as I left Wisconsin for Notre Dame, a question I asked myself was ‘Did I leave it in a better position than I found it?’ For me, it was a resounding yes. But that’s not just me, that’s the team and how they sent me off, saying I’d done a good job. That to me really defines success.”
Daily improvement and the drive to INVEST IN PEOPLE is something he hopes to impart to his new colleagues as he helps them measure the success of their own careers.
“I try to inspire those around me to be the best that they can be and reach for their wildest dreams. I try to empower them to learn and grow and make decisions. I also ask them to learn how to take responsibility for those decisions. I truly believe you have to show people that you care and that you have empathy in order for them to trust and believe in your vision.”
As CFO at Wisconsin, Morris had primary oversight of Wisconsin’s $150 million financial and operations budget, but he also served as an assistant sports administrator for the Wisconsin football program. It was a long way from his original position as athletic business intern.
“Success for me means constant improvement. I ask myself daily questions, ‘Did I improve the lives of others today?’ or ‘Did I improve personally today?’ I believe in tracking that and monitoring that and holding yourself accountable.”
Morris also had experience and success as a student-athlete. He was a three-year football letter winner and a starting linebacker at Alabama, playing on the Crimson Tide’s national championship team in 1992.
“Getting my scholarship to play football changed the trajectory of my life. Knowing that I can do that for others is a driving force. I get up every day knowing that I work for an institution that impacts student-athletes and elevates their lives. It’s really all about them. “
Mario Morris spends his life in the service of others, and because of that dedication, we are happy to honor him as a NEXT UP honoree.