Missouri’s new athletic director Mack Rhoades has an impeccable reputation as a fundraiser and consensus builder, but he’s also warmly regarded as an administrator coaches enjoy working alongside.
“You hear some people called coach’s ADs, and I think he truly is a coach’s AD,” said Houston’s associate vice president and chief operating officer Hunter Yurachek, who is effectively Rhoades’ top assistant. “I think he’s going to build a relationship on a personal level with each coach, so that he develops a level of trust.”
Trust has been a hallmark of Rhoades’ career during stops at Yale, Texas-El Paso and Akron before his arrival at Houston in June 2009.
“He’s been my go-to guy,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said. “I’ve valued his counsel. We talk all the time. We’ve planned strategy together and agendas. He’s a down-to-earth guy. He never puts on airs at all. … It’s a relaxed relationship. I find him to be completely trustworthy. That’s so important.”
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That’s also good news for Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and the rest of the entrenched coaches, who will be getting a new boss when Rhoades takes the reins in late April.
“He’s not a guy that, when you see an AD walk in, you say, ‘Oh god, here he comes,’” said Texas-El Paso athletic director and former Missouri football coach Bob Stull, who worked with Rhoades for seven years. “They’ll enjoy being around him and he’ll listen to them, find out what they need and he’ll do his best to try and get that for them the best that he can.”
If he can’t, Rhoades will let them know that, too.
“When Mack says yes, he means yes and, when Mack says no, he means no,” Yurachek said. “I think the coaches respect that from him. Coaches come to athletic directors and administrators needing things, or thinking they need things, and Mack has developed a great relationship with them and that level of trust that, again, when he says yes, they know he means yes and, when he says no, they know he means no. They walk out of his office after a no with the same level of respect as when they came in.”
Stull said he talked with Pinkel, who is the winningest coach in Tigers football history and led the program to back-to-back SEC East championships, about Rhoades and assured him that he’s in good hands.
Stull was an assistant at Kent State when Pinkel was a player. He also was offensive coordinator at Washington from 1979-83 with Pinkel serving as wide receivers coach, so the two are close.
“Gary will like him a lot,” Stull said. “He will enjoy working with Mack.”
Aresco certainly did.
“I think the world of him,” Aresco said. “I think he’s the best of the best. I think we’ve been really fortunate and Houston’s been fortunate to have him. It’s easy to work with him, and he has been very committed to this conference. … It’s bittersweet, because I’m losing a really trusted friend and confidant and one of the leaders, one of our top ADs.”
For what it’s worth, Stull also doesn’t anticipate any issues with the proposed south end-zone expansion at Memorial Stadium, a project Pinkel has pushed for as the next phase in the program’s growth.
After all, Rhoades helped with a similar project during his time on Stull’s staff at Texas-El Paso — where a 65,000-square-foot end-zone facility with offices, locker rooms, a weight room and training room was constructed overlooking the stadium.
“He’s got that experience already and at least he has a vision of what that could look like,” Stull said. “There will, of course, be different architects and different things, but that’s just an example of things he’s done that he could step into and bring some insight.”