• How does Baylor’s athletic director describe his job? ‘Preparing champions for life’

    Mack Rhoades

    The Baylor athletic department has seen a lot of change in the last year. The new football coaching staff has received the most attention, but more than 20 other athletic staff members — including most of the senior administration — are new to Baylor and/or in new positions entering this fall. That includes, of course, Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades, who came to Waco last summer with a vision: to make Baylor Athletics a place that prepares “champions for life.”

    Rhoades and head football coach Matt Rhule made stops around Texas this summer to meet with members of the Baylor family and talk about how they are leading their respective areas. Rhule’s description of his job — to raise men — has been widely covered, but Rhoades’ vision has received less attention. Here’s a condensed version of how Rhoades described it at one of his “Texas Tour” stops this summer:

    “When we think about the future, think about reshaping and rebuilding culture — How do we do that? What does that mean? … As we think about it, we talk about this concept: ‘Preparing Champions for Life.’ That’s what we do. We’re gonna get caught up in terms of how many games we win, how many championships we win, all those different things. But at the end of the day, let’s never forget what we really do — we prepare champions for life.

    “And so how do you do that? We talk about this thing called “academic achievement,” right? We talk about the GPA, and the graduation rates, and all those things. And those things are terrific, and we do it really, really well. But we’ve got to do better than that… Some day soon on this list, when I talk about our accolades in the academic area, we’re gonna talk about job placement. This is how many of our student-athletes, when they graduate, got a job and had a plan for life

    “Second — I truly believe this: There’s not a sport program that we have that cannot win a national championship. Does it take work? Absolutely. It takes a lot of work to do it the right way. But we’re gonna do it the right way… We’re gonna win Big 12 championships. We’re gonna win national championships. And we’re gonna be the flagship institution in this space that we call big-time college athletics. ‘This is the way you do it.’ …

    “The third piece, as we think about preparing champions for life, is social responsibility. … This thing called character formation, life skills. This fall, we’re going to introduce a brand-new curriculum across the board for all 500 student-athletes… What does it mean to serve? I look at Coach Rhule; talk about leadership. Our football team, January through March — 700 hours of community service. Remarkable…

    “And then the final piece is spiritual growth. Absolutely; that’s what makes Baylor unique. How do we take and use that spiritual growth to help grow our young people? How do we weave that into the fabric of who we are? … We’ve had 300 student-athletes over the last seven years go on mission trips. We have 200 right now involved with our FCA program. But we can do more; we can do better.

    “When you think about those four pillars — academic achievement, athletic success, social responsibility, spiritual growth — we have to be great in all four. Not three of four, but all four. And that’s our quest, that’s our mission. We’ve had some great moments, but I believe — for both the university, and for our athletics program — our best days lie ahead.”

    [READ Rhoades’ vision in more detail in this Baylor Bear Foundation Insider piece]

    As we’ve noted since last spring, if Baylor is to be what she needs to be, we have to keep our focus on our mission: “educating men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.” It’s encouraging to hear so many Baylor leaders — from Rhoades and Rhule to new President Linda Livingstone — emphasizing that core approach again and again.

    Sic ’em, Mack Rhoades!