An interview with Director of Athletics Mark Rountree
Author: Mike Lund
Posted: February 2, 2016

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Portland State Director of Athletics Mark Rountree recently completed one year on the Park Blocks. interviewed Rountree last week.

GoViks: January 20th marked the one-year anniversary of you working as Portland State's Director of Athletics. What do you view as the positive steps the athletics program has taken in that time?

Mark Rountree: We have done a great job of making student success the focus of what we do every day. This past year we have seen success on the field and in the classroom and that has led to greater community engagement with Portland State. Our fans and alumni are taking pride in what they are seeing from Athletics, and that bodes well for our future.

We have also done a great job of making Athletics a vibrant part of Portland State's unique urban campus experience. Our student-athletes, coaches, and staff have embraced our role to engage our campus community to amplify the great work being done by our faculty, staff, and students.   

The success of Viking Football led the way for our department this past fall by creating excitement for everyone at PSU. Under Coach Barnum's leadership we are poised to become a premier program in the Big Sky Conference. Football Saturday has became fun again at Providence Park. I cannot understate how the football program's outstanding season offered the entire University a shot of adrenaline this past fall. We need to keep that momentum going.

What have you found to be the biggest challenges and/or roadblocks so far?

Probably the biggest challenge for me personally is balancing my time between getting out of the office and seeing our stakeholders and spending more time with our coaches and student-athletes. There is no correct answer, except that I can do better!

I did not have any roadblocks this past year, until recently when our department lost AJ Schlatter. Nothing prepares you as an Athletic Director to help students and coaches deal with the loss of a beloved member of the family. Our coaches and student-athletes are working through the loss of AJ, but it will take time to heal. The Schlatter family should take solace that AJ will always be a part of Viking Football, and we are resolved to honor his name to live by the example he gave us.

You are from the south and spent a lot of your professional career back east. Is there anything that has surprised you about living in Portland and working at Portland State?

Having spent some time at Oregon State, I was definitely aware of the rainy winters.  But I also knew the best-kept secret around, that our springs and summers are the best in the country!

In my opinion, what makes Portland a truly unique city is a strong culture of freedom of ideas and expression, in combination with smart sustainable strategic thinking. Portland State is without a doubt the catalyst for Portland's identity and culture. Just walk around our campus and you see it everywhere. I did not realize how important Portland State is to the fabric of Portland. After working at PSU for a year I have learned how the city and the university are linked together to make Portland the great city it is today.

The most pleasant surprise from this past year is the way faculty and staff at Portland State opened their doors to me and welcomed a new direction for Athletics. I am humbled that our campus community wants to our student-athletes to succeed academically and athletically and be completely integrated with campus life. This partnership we have created will only become stronger in the years that lie ahead.

Have you put a strategic plan in place for the future? If so, can you reveal the goals of the program?

Our strategic plan includes six areas of focus:

·       Enhancing Student-Athlete Development

·       Growing Scholarship Opportunities 

·       Improving Facilities

·       Be Driven to Compete Athletically and Academically

·       Building More Pride for Portland State

·       Fiscal Responsibility

Actions speak louder than words, so now that we have identified our focus we must start to get things done. I am fortunate to have a great staff of administrators and coaches who know we can make a difference at Portland State.

Where is Portland State at with the development of the Viking Pavilion? When will we see distinct changes in the building and what is the timeline for the project?

We are in final stages of planning and design for the Viking Pavilion. Work will begin this spring with Phase I of the project. So in April 2016, people will begin to see work on the west end of the building where the pool is currently located. Demolition of the east side of Stott Center will begin this summer to make way for the Viking Pavilion. The project should be completed in January 2018.

Where does Portland State Athletics have the potential to make its greatest gains in the coming years?

The Viking Pavilion at the Peter W. Stott Center will transform Intercollegiate Athletics at Portland State.  It will, by far, have the single largest impact on our Department and this University. By offering first class spaces for academic and athletic excellence the new Viking Pavilion and Stott Center renovations will transform the student experience at Portland State and support the success of the community, the city, and beyond. 

The Viking Pavilion is of vital importance to continue Portland State's growth as a nationally acclaimed urban university. Once completed, generations to come will have the opportunity to experience:

- A 3,000-seat venue for athletic competitions, concerts, academic symposiums, corporate gatherings, banquets, and the arts.

- Open common areas to foster student success and learning.

- A café and student lounges for social gatherings.

- New classrooms to meet growing needs for academic learning spaces.

- A state-of-the-art athletic strength training facility.

- An expanded and enhanced sports medicine area for rehab and treatment.

- Athletic office and meeting spaces to bring the Department of Athletics together in one facility.

- Updated varsity locker rooms to enhance the student-athlete experience.

The time is now to provide financial support to the Viking Pavilion. The Pavilion and renovations to the Peter W. Stott Center will forever change campus life and community engagement at Portland State University. It will provide Viking Athletics the opportunity to meet the mental and physical demands student-athletes face on a daily basis to achieve athletic and academic excellence. The first-class facility will also raise the national reputation of the university which will contribute in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest students and faculty, and make all alumni, students, and stakeholders proud to be part of Portland State University. I cannot wait to welcome the community to our new home.

Creating adequate revenue streams are always challenging in college athletics. How and where can Portland State create adequate revenue streams for its program?

Our staff, along with help from the Athletic Director's Advisory Board, is working on an initiative entitled "The Will to Win." This is a comprehensive plan to generate revenue from multiple areas and address our most pressing needs for student-athletes to have "The Will to Win" in the classroom, on the field, and for Portland State. The plan targets major gifts, annual giving, corporate sponsorships, and endowments to generate revenue to enhance scholarship opportunities, improve facilities, and address infrastructure to offer the best student experience in the Big Sky Conference.

We ask our student-athletes to give their very best everyday to represent Portland State.  As stakeholder of PSU Athletics, it is our responsibility to give our best to support them.  

What ways can Portland State fans and boosters make a difference in helping grow the overall Viking program? 

Over the past year fans and supporters of our program have been growing in their desire to engage with Portland State Athletics. The message is simple: GET ENGAGED. Our future is very bright and fans need to come to games, support Athletics through donations, and spread the excitement about what is happening on the Park Blocks. We will very soon have the best football and basketball facilities in the conference. We have great coaches and student-athletes who work hard and make a difference for PSU. We are part of a great University that is redefining higher education in an urban setting. Fans and boosters should show their Viking pride and let others know of the great things happening at Portland State.