Commentary: FAU introduces new AD Pat Chun to thundering approval

Ryan Cortes

Ryan Cortes. Photo by Charles Pratt.

I’ve covered and talked to Mike Jarvis for the last couple of years, and I don’t have enough fingers and hands (or biceps and toes) to count how many times the man has complained about promotions and marketing after basketball games. To count how many times an agitated accomplished coach has known he had something special in Boca and no one special enough to sell it for him.

That day’s over.

“I expect that’s going to be a thing of the past,” he told me today. “When something’s not correct, you have to try to fix it. The only thing I can do is speak the truth. Some people don’t like to hear the truth. That’s too bad. If I’m talking about things over and over again, then it must be important.”

That day’s over because of one Pat Chun, the next athletic director at FAU. Over because while FAU was raising $1.35 million in 2010-11, Chun was busy raising more. How much more? $117.8 million, to be exact. He saw that amount raised in three years at Ohio State. He also helped secure a 10-year $128 million multimedia deal with IMG college, the largest multimedia deal in the history of college athletics.

At his introductory press conference, new Athletic Director Pat Chun appreciated FAU's interest in him: “You can sense the pride and the purpose with the people at Florida Atlantic," he said. "I’m lucky that they wanted me. We have a chance to do great things here.” Photo by Michelle Friswell.

And while he’s dealing with a different set of dilemmas here — he won’t have as much money, as many fans or as much support — his experience, in big, pressure filled, money seeking deals, is something new and rare at FAU. This isn’t Craig Angelos and that isn’t a bad thing.

“I think anytime someone new comes in there’s a breath of fresh air,” the interim AD before Chun Melissa Dawson said. “That’s not being negative about the previous person. That’s simply saying you’ve got a new vision, new ideas and new things to try.”

And he crafted that vision and those ideas from over a decade at a booming, money-generating program.

“I’ve been employed at my alma mater for 15 years,” Chun said of Ohio State. “I started there as a student worker. I was able to work my way up through six separate positions to my most recent position as executive associate athletic director at the most comprehensive, most complex athletic program in the country.”

One of the people charged with interviewing and examining potential candidates knew his experience was both a positive and a negative. That maybe he almost had too much relevant experience, too much success to come here.

“Our biggest concern was that he was from Ohio,” SG Vice President April Turner said, “so could he deal with the fact we aren’t Ohio? You know, we’re not that big, our student athletes carry their own bags on the plane, we don’t have the same budget, the same boosters.”

So they asked him.

“He never tried to downplay who we were,” Turner said. “He saw us as an equal and spoke of FAU as highly as Ohio State. He got us really excited about a team he didn’t know, and that was a big selling point for us, just the passion for FAU and the family before he was a part of it.”

SG Vice President April Turner was on the panel who interviewed candidates and found herself impressed by Chun. She said among the final candidates, he had the greatest background and experience in fundraising and marketing. Photo by Michelle Friswell.

And while he had a $126 million operating budget for the athletic department at his old stop, he won’t have half that here. He’ll have a little over $17 million.

“It’s not about re-creating what we’ve done at Ohio State,” Chun admitted. “It’s more about, let’s just be as good as we can possibly be. We’re going to take this day by day and try to understand the things we can be good at.

“You will see that resources are a problem on every campus across America,” he continued. “Whether FAU, Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, they’re all looking to increase fundraising. So that doesn’t change.”

What changes are the packaging and the people in charge, and it was striking how comfortable Chun was up at the podium. At one point, President Saunders — standing alongside Chun — was asked what she saw in her new athletic director that led to his hiring. And she mentioned his background in marketing and promotions and fundraising and how he was the right person.

So Chun smiled.

“I was hoping she would say devilish good looks, wit and humor,” he said. “But I guess that doesn’t count.”

He couldn’t sound any less like Craig Angelos.

And damn is that a good thing.