News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 27, 2011

FROM THE PRESS BOX: Sycamore AD Ron Prettyman explains Cal Poly interest

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Editor’s note: Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman interviewed and participated in a public open forum for the same position at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo last week. Prettyman is one of the three candidates for the Mustangs’ top spot in their athletic department. On Saturday, I sat down with Prettyman to go in depth about his interest in the Cal Poly job and his possible future with ISU. Here is what Prettyman had to say about his inquiries in a Q&A format:



Golden: What piqued your interest in the Cal Poly job?

Prettyman: I knew the previous athletics director who retired in December [Alison Cone]. I had been a finalist for this job about eight years ago when she was hired. She was an associate athletics director there. There were a few people who remembered me and liked me and somebody gave me a call and asked whether I’d submit new information for the position. I said, ‘sure’, and that’s kind of how it all started. That was back in October or November.

 

Golden: What’s appealing to you about Cal Poly that might be different from what you have at Indiana State?

Prettyman: It’s one of the most prestigious academic schools in the nation. It’s an engineering school. From a gender equity standpoint, it’s about 58 percent male to 42 percent female. Some of their facilities are nice, some of them need work.

Their location? Oprah Winfrey (a nearby resident) called it the happiest place on Earth to live. It really is just beautiful. It has hills on three sides and the ocean on the other.

There’s a lot of appealing things. My dad lives out there and he’s getting on in years. My wife’s sister lives in that region.

I’ve got 10 years of retirement in the California state university system that with the increased salary this position to where I was before, it could benefit me in my future after retirement.

Golden: You’ve expressed from the beginning that you’re happy here. Some fans have wondered if you’re happy here, why apply for a job elsewhere?

Prettyman: Well, I am happy here. I’ve never worked for a better president than Dr. [Daniel] Bradley. He’s extremely supportive. I love our coaches, they’re my coaches. For the most part, I’ve hired most of these people. We’ve built facilities and we’ve got a lot of things done through the help of a lot of people. The crowds are getting better, the atmosphere is good.

I’m a builder, and while I certainly don’t think we’re done here, there’s more to do, there’s an opportunity [at Cal Poly] to make a difference. It’s a gold mine there, along with all of the other reasons I’ve shared. I love challenges, and while there’s certainly still challenges here, there are challenges there that are interesting to face.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m disgruntled or anything else. I feel like a kid in the candy store. I have a great job. That’s what I told the people in the interview. I don’t have to lie to you to get a job. I love where I am and I could easily stay there the rest of my life. But this intrigues me for a lot of the reasons I just mentioned.

Golden: How much does being a California native factor into your motivation?

Prettyman: Not a lot, other than having family there and having some built-up retirement that this will help with and some of those kinds of things. Home is where your heart us. Our family came here and adapted very well and has fit into the community. I love the community and I have life-long friends here regardless of what the future holds. Indiana State was my first Division I athletics director job. That will always be special to me. I’m not going back to go to California, other than, California does provide some opportunities for some security for my family in the future.

Golden: I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the California budgetary situation, but there is a serious debt problem there. Cal Poly has not been immune and when the most recent athletics director’s salary was given a raise, there was some consternation about it. Is there concern on your part, given the budgetary situation, about how it might hinder the building you might want to do out there?

Prettyman: I did a lot of research. Some of my best friends are athletics directors and faculty members at various California state university schools. To a man, everyone of them said it’s the best job in the state.

One of the reasons is that they’ve done a nice job preparing for some of these deficit things. They’ve saved a lot of money, they’ve been able to handle it better than some other schools out there.

Another thing is that the athletics department is funded by three different sources: student fees, state appropriations and fund-raising. All three of those are very healthy. State appropriations could be impacted, but student fees are among the top in the state. Those students are proud of their university, just like our students are here, and they’re willing to back it up to make sure we compete out there.

Golden: The job itself, how differently would it be structured from ISU? Would your autonomy be different? For better or worse?

Prettyman: It’s an interesting time for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. They have a president who started on Feb. 1. They have a provost who just announced his retirement. They’re interviewing concurrently with the athletic director position for a director of development. Those are some pretty senior positions in the university.

There’s a chance for restructuring. I spent some time with the new president [Jeffrey Armstrong], who came from Michigan State and who was a season ticket-holder at Purdue. He’s very supportive of athletics, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say Daniel Bradley was so supportive and someone who I respect with a passion. He gets what a quality athletics department can do for a quality university.

Golden: When you go into an interview, what’s the number one thing you’ve done in six years at ISU that’s appealing to them?

Prettyman: I think that makes me appealing is that we’ve accomplished a lot at Indiana State. They saw what was accomplished at Cal State-Dominguez Hills [Prettyman’s job before he came to ISU] with the Home Depot Center and some other various things. I have a reputation in California. We got a lot done at Cal State-Dominguez Hills. Many people in the Big West Conference [Cal Poly’s league for all sports besides football, which will play in the Big Sky Conference] are some of my best friends and they’re on my reference list.

I really didn’t have to say a whole lot. They did their homework and they knew who I was and what they were getting into. They interviewed me eight years ago. I had no Division I experience. It was one of those situations where it was kind of, ‘we like you a lot, but you don’t have any Division I experience.’

Golden: What’s been the reaction from ISU’s fans since it went public?

Prettyman: With the exception of a couple people, everyone’s been supportive. I take so much pride in the quality of people I have around me. I feel like we’ve hired good people. Our coaches are solid, they’re not only great coaches, but solid people. I can’t count how many people have come to me in the last week, put their arm around me and said, ‘We support you, thank you for the good work you’ve done.’

There’s a few people who think I’m cutting and running. I really don’t have anything to run from or to. I do love Terre Haute and Indiana State.

I have a tough decision to make in the next couple of weeks. The decision hasn’t been made yet — by them or by me. They have a couple more candidates coming in, they might knock their socks off and I might not even get the job.

Who knows what happens in the next week? I might have conversations with Dr. Bradley and others here at the university that will help me make a decision to stay. But it’s certainly not a done deal.

Golden: Although, and forgive me if I’m reading into this too much, it does sound like if the job is offered, that you’ll go. Is it too early to put that forth?

Prettyman: In all honesty, it’s a huge toss-up right now. Our family has invested their lives in Terre Haute over the last six years. From our family business, to the blood, sweat and tears we’ve put into building this program, to the quality of people we’ve brought in here, to working with an outstanding president.

Believe me, I’ve got two pages of pros and cons on this job and they’re just about equal. There’s a lot of consternation going on right now about which direction I want to pursue.



Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Please check out Golden’s Down In The Valley blog at blogs.trib

star.com/downinthevalley.