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For better or worse, Mack Rhoades is an aggressive, assertive athletic director

Mack Rhoades comes to Missouri with a track record as a change agent and ace fundraiser. He also had a mixed record of hires at Houston.

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It appears that R. Bowen Loftin's choice to replace outgoing athletic director Mike Alden will come from outside of the Alden family tree.


CBS Sports: Houston's Mack Rhoades expected to be named new AD at Mizzou

The 49-year-old Rhoades would replace Mike Alden, who is stepping down in August. Multiple sources told that Rhoades was chosen to take over for Alden after other candidates dropped out of the picture.

Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork reportedly took his name out of the running over the weekend. In addition, a source close to Texas A&M senior athletic director Jason Cook said he would not be getting the job.

Rhoades is considered one of the most dynamic administrators in the country. In the last two years alone he has hired championship-winning coaches in basketball (Kelvin Sampson) and football (Tom Herman) while overseeing construction of a new on-campus football stadium.

Post-Dispatch: Houston AD is taking Mizzou job, reports say

Rhoades came to Houston in 2009 after serving as Akron’s athletics director. At both schools he developed a strong reputation for fundraising and oversaw the construction of new football stadiums, most recently Houston’s $120 million on-campus TDECU Stadium. At Houston, Rhoades was responsible for hiring basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, who just finished his first regular season at UH, and newly added football coach Tom Herman, who helped lead Ohio State to last season’s national championship as offensive coordinator. Rhoades also spent seven years at University of Texas-El Paso, where he worked under AD and former Mizzou football coach Bob Stull.

The Trib: Reports: Houston's Mack Rhoades will be MU's next athletic director

Rhoades, 49, helped facilitate Houston's transition from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference in 2013.

He promoted Tony Levine to be the Cougars' head football coach after Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M in 2012, then fired Levine this offseason after he posted a 21-17 record in three years and hired former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman.

KC Star: Reports: Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades to succeed Mike Alden at Missouri

Rhoades also oversaw construction of a new football stadium during his time at Akron, where he was hired in December 2005 and worked to make the Zips a self-funded athletic department.

Prior to that, Rhoades served as senior associate athletic director at UTEP (1998-2006) and athletics advancement at Marquette (1997-98).

Rhoades made $537,600 in 2013, according to the USA Today NCAA Athletic Director salary database. He had a maximum of $75,000 in available bonuses.

By comparison, Alden made $651,917 with available bonuses of $347, 915.

PowerMizzou: Report: Mizzou to tab Rhoades

Missouri's Board of Curators is set to meet at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, presumably to approve a contract for Rhoades. An official announcement of the hire and Rhoades introduction is expected on Tuesday.

Fox 26 News: UH's Mack Rhoades moves to Missouri

"It's disappointing," said Tilman Fertitta, chairman, UH system board of regents, in an interview with FOX26 Sports.

"We feel like Mack was a top-notch A.D. and we're disappointed." [...]

"It was his opportunity to go to an SEC school," Fertitta said. "He didn't want to pass it up.

In his two stints as an athletic director, Rhoades seemed to aggressively pursue the program's stated goals. For Akron, that meant upgrading fundraising and pursuing a new football stadium. For Houston, that meant upgrading its football stadium and raising the standards for the coaches on staff.

Fundraiser extraordinaire

When Houston hired Rhoades away from Akron, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer touted his fundraising and leadership.

Since arriving at Akron, the native of Arizona has made an imprint on the Zips athletic department via significant improvements, both athletically and academically. The Zips entered the 2008-2009 calendar year with 478 Dean's List honorees since Rhoades arrived, to go along with 16 championships won including 10 MAC Players of the Year and nine All-Americans. [...]

Rhoades, 43, also engineered Akron's funding and building for InfoCision Stadium, which is due to open Sept. 12, 2009. This $61.5-million project is scheduled to be done on time. Rhoades was also a strong player within the Mid-American Conference, as he headed the committee - along with former commissioner Rick Chryst - that brockered the favorable football deal with ESPN that begins this season.

Rhoades didn't make any major hires at Akron. He came to the school in 2006 following the football program's surprising MAC title run; J.D. Brookhart was just 13-11 in two seasons on the job, but Akron had finished with its third straight winning season after producing just two in 10 seasons. The Zips upset Northern Illinois, 31-30, to win the MAC in 2005, and that was enough to carry Brookhart through three iffy seasons -- they finished 5-7 in 2006, 4-8 in 2007, and 5-7 in 2008 before Rhoades' departure. (Brookhart would leave after a 3-9 campaign in 2009.)

In basketball, meanwhile, Keith Dambrot was wrapping up his second season in charge; Dan Hipsher had left after averaging just 12 wins per season from 2001-04, and Dambrot had immediately upgraded the results to 19-10 in 2004-05 and 23-10 in 2005-06. During Rhoades' time, Dambrot would go 26-7 in 2006-07, 24-11 in 2007-08, and 23-13, with Akron's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1986, in 2008-09. (Dambrot is still in charge, having won 20-plus games every year and qualified twice more for the NCAA Tournament.)

Rhoades also inherited Caleb Porter, who was in charge of Akron's renowned men's soccer program. Akron has won 16 conference titles since 1993 and won the MAC in each year Rhoades was in town; Porter was hired away by the MLS' Portland Timbers in 2013.

In all, from a results standpoint Akron was in decent shape when Rhoades came aboard, and that mostly remained the case. Rhoades was tasked with raising funds and upgrading facilities, and he certainly did that. Despite a new stadium, the football program would eventually fall apart when Brookhart was replaced by the unsuccessful Rob Ianello (2-22 in 2010-11), but Rhoades' fingerprints weren't on that hire.

When Rhoades left for Houston in 2009, however, he showed that he will make significant changes if results aren't up to snuff. That led to what were frankly some questionable moves in the name of progress.

Aggressive and, perhaps, impatient

When Rhoades arrived, Tom Penders was in charge of the basketball program. Penders had gone 24-10 in 2008 and 21-12 in 2009, completing the resurrection of a pretty miserable program: between 1993-94 and 2003-04, Houston had won 11 or fewer games nine times and finished with a winning record just twice. Penders went 18-14, 21-10, and 18-15 in his first three seasons before the 24-win breakthrough.

In 2009-10, however, the Cougars struggled; they beat Oklahoma early in the season but limped to a 15-15 regular season finish. They rebounded to win four straight games and steal the Conference USA tournament title, then lost by 12 points to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournement. It was their first bid since 1992, but it came via miracle run, not sustained quality

Following a postseason meeting with Rhoades, Penders somewhat unexpectedly resigned. And Rhoades' first major-sport hire was a confusing one.

When it came time for Rhoades to choose Penders' replacement, he threw his first curveball. Rather than following the Sumlin-Dismuke-Alvey script and hiring an exciting, young assistant from a major program (a la the extremely available Rodney Terry from Texas-Austin or Chris Walker from Villanova), Rhoades chose James Dickey, who was seen by many Cougars fans (myself included) as a has-been. He was fired from the head coaching job at Texas Tech in 2001 and hadn't been offered a head job since. Sure, he spent seven years as an assistant for a major program in Oklahoma State, but nobody was throwing around words like "exciting" or "young" to describe the hire.

Dickey never gained any serious traction. He went 12-18 and 15-15 in his first two seasons, and while he did manage to go 20-13 in 2012-13, that was due mostly to a cake-soft non-conference slate (347th in the country according to Pomeroy). Houston ranked just 181st in the Pomeroy ratings and went 7-9 in CUSA play. The Cougars did upset Texas in the NIT, though, before falling to George Mason in overtime.

In 2013-14, Dickey put what was easily his best team on the court -- 125th according to Pomeroy, with a roster led mostly by sophomores and one junior -- but the Cougars went just 17-16, finishing with a 29-point loss to Louisville in the AAC Tournament, and that was it for him.

And then Rhoades hired Kelvin Sampson.


Now, maybe I'm too hard on Kelvin Sampson because I hated that he beat Missouri so much. Maybe I'm biased. And hey, his NCAA punishment came because he was making impermissible phone calls, not because he was tied to agents or, you know, he tried to frame a player who was killed by another player. Sampson could be worse, I guess.

Still, after getting Oklahoma put on NCAA probation for making more than 500 impermissible recruiting calls, he went to Indiana and almost immediately got in trouble for making more of them. Whether or not communication rules are silly, he showed reckless disregard for known rules and got handed a five-year show-cause penalty. And after a pretty soft landing -- three years as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, three with the Houston Rockets -- he ended up at UH. That Houston has stunk this year (12-18 heading into the AAC Tournament) isn't really the point. This is an example of a hire that, for better or worse, Mike Alden wouldn't have made. A lot of Missouri fans will be fine with that. Others will struggle.

Fired for eight wins

Meanwhile, Rhoades also proved aggressive with the football program. He was in charge when Kevin Sumlin (whom he inherited) led Houston to a perfect 12-0 regular season in 2011; Sumlin lost the Conference USA title game and left for Texas A&M, and in the name of continuity, Rhoades named receivers coach Tony Levine as his replacement. On-field turnover led to a bit of a collapse, to 5-7, in 2012. With an emphasis on turnovers, however, the Cougars began 2013 7-1 and nearly upset eventual AAC conference champion UCF in Orlando before trailing off to 8-5; the 2013 Cougars were both super-young and insanely lucky, and despite greater experience, the luck regressed and Houston went 8-5 again in 2014. Rhoades then fired Levine.

This is another move Mike Alden probably wouldn't have made. In terms of quality, Houston was far from spectacular, but after first-year struggles, Houston went 16-10 in 2013-14; the Cougars had won more than eight games just three times in 24 seasons, but Levine was let go after averaging that over two seasons. Justifiable or not, it revealed that Rhoades likely has a much shorter leash than Alden was known for having. At least, he took this approach at Houston. Obviously, he was more tolerant of mediocre results at Akron.

(And for what it's worth, Rhoades then went out and landed Urban Meyer's ace assistant, Tom Herman. It has been regarded as one of the offseason's better hires, though we'll obviously see how it pans out.)

One more Houston hire of note: Rhoades pretty quickly dumped baseball coach Rayner Noble, the program's winningest coach, after 16 seasons in charge. The Cougars were two years removed from a Super Regional berth but had fallen off-course pretty significantly. Noble's replacement, Todd Whitting, led Houston back to the Super Regional in 2014.

In these three major sports, Rhoades made five hires at Houston. Two were old hands, three were young up-and-comers, and one of the three young guys was a bit of a loyalty hire. After the hire of Kim Anderson, I joked that Mike Alden clearly doesn't have a type. Rhoades perhaps doesn't either. And that's fine. But Rhoades made it clear that he has a shorter leash than Alden over these last few years. He also proved that, at least while running a mid-major program (the rules might change now that he's in the SEC), he's willing to take on a redemption project and hire someone with the "shady winner" label.

We'll see

It's certainly not hard to see why R. Bowen Loftin likes Mack Rhoades. First, he gets things done. Within three years of his arrival in Houston, UH had gone from not knowing what to do about Robertson Stadium to tearing it down and replacing it. He also got Akron moved out of the increasingly decrepit and off-campus Rubber Bowl and into a fancy new on-campus stadium. Granted, there won't be any replacing Mizzou Arena or Memorial Stadium anytime soon, and the plans are already underway regarding a new softball stadium. But he is a pretty impressive change agent when change is needed.

Meanwhile, Rhoades proved at Houston that he will not tolerate mediocrity if he can help it. He showed both Tom Penders and Rayner Noble to the door despite rather recent success, and he fired Tony Levine after two 8-5 seasons. (That might seem at odds with the "he lets his coaches coach" quote above, but I guess it simply means that, while he doesn't meddle, he still holds a really high standard.) His track record of hires is hit-and-miss, and his hire of Kelvin Sampson raises a serious red flag with me.

But I am for now put at ease by the fact that he basically did what the school needed him to do. That meant focusing on fundraising at Akron, and at a Houston program in flux because of conference realignment, it meant more aggressive hiring practices (and more fundraising).

Missouri has established a more patient culture in its athletic department, and it has served the university well. There's nothing guaranteeing he'll change that, even if a certain pocket of the fanbase would like nothing more than change in that regard.