Monday, February 26, 2007

On Grambling AD Troy Mathieu

GSU's AD search is stealthy
School won't name any candidates for job
April 9, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Grambling State has fastened a tight lid on its second search for an athletics director in as many years.

"We'd like to keep it confidential," said interim Grambling AD Duer Sharp, "until (GSU president) Dr. (Horace) Judson is ready to announce. We'd just like it keep it as private as possible."

Calls to Judson this week were not returned.

Since July 1, 2004, Judson's first day in office, Grambling has had a non-interim athletics director for just 308 days. That in turn has led to extended periods where positions underneath the AD are unfilled, including the critical position of compliance officer.

Judson fired former athletics director Al Dennis III on that first day as president in 2004. Former longtime South Carolina State coach Willie Jeffries didn't assume the AD job until Jan. 3, 2005 — and had resigned by Oct. 31.

Sharp, who then took over as interim, said Grambling has no plans to reveal when candidates are interviewed, or who the finalists are, in advance of making a hire.

"I don't think we'll announce anything," he said. "That's not a route we'd like to go."

Sharp, associate commissioner for the Southwestern Athletic Conference, is an executive on loan under a management-assistance agreement approved by the University of Louisiana System board in late October.

GSU posted the job opening for athletics director on Nov. 7, but didn't begin interviewing candidates until after the new year.

Sharp said the hiring process was slowed both by Jeffries' contract, which extended through Jan. 3, and questions over budget cuts on the state level in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Still, a void in leadership likely led to an ongoing NCAA investigation into the school, which began in January.

It's become a source of grave concern to GSU alumni, who insist that the process ought to be moving more quickly.

"They need to speed it up. Jackson State fired their coach and had a whole staff in place a few weeks later," said Ezzard Burton, who attended GSU in the mid-1970s and is active in the Monroe/Ouachita chapter of the Grambling University National Alumni Association.

"I'm not speaking to the alumni association as a whole, but I've talked to a number of people," Burton said. "I've been in Monroe for 23 years and worked with the alumni association for 19 of them. We challenge the administration to get these things in place. I'm for this president, but he needs to get in a hurry."

Sharp has said that Judson and vice president for finance Billy Owens contacted SWAC commissioner Robert Vowels with this unique interim proposal. He also said he intended to return to the conference office and would not apply to be the permanent replacement.

Finalists in the search that ended with Jeffries' hiring included: Troy Mathieu, assistant superintendent for athletics for the Dallas Independent School District; Clarence Underwood, who served as assistant athletics director, senior associate AD and then AD at Michigan State between 1990-2001; and Wilbert Curtis Williams, former athletics director at Alabama State.

The University of Louisiana System board's joint athletic and finance committee originally approved a $90,000 salary for Jeffries.

Sharp said the school has received "between 30 and 40 applications" for the position. He described the process as being in its "middle stages."

"Before you bring somebody on campus, you want to do background checks, and talk to references and others not on the reference page," Sharp said. "The hardest thing is finding a timeline. There are so many things going on, and fitting the schedules of the candidate, mine and Dr. Judson can be a problem."

Dennis replaced Robert Piper, who took over in 1997 as athletics director only to step down three years later when he fell ill with stomach cancer. Dennis then served for 2½ years as the assistant athletics director for business affairs before taking over as interim AD in 2000.

Legendary former coaches Eddie Robinson and Fred Hobdy, along with former president R.W.E. Jones, have also served as GSU athletics directors over the years.

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Top of his class
April 11, 2006

By Nick Deriso
The best candidate for Grambling State's athletics director job has already applied once: Troy Mathieu, the superintendent for athletics at the Dallas Independent School District.

He was a finalist in the 2004 search that led to the hiring of longtime former South Carolina State coach Willie Jeffries, who resigned less than a year in.

Mathieu is in charge of a 19-person department in inner-city Dallas with a 2005 budget of $4.7 million that's similar to GSU's total operating sports revenues of $5.5 million from 2004, the most recent numbers available. The DISD, our nation's 12th largest school district, serves more than 160,000 students over 351 square miles.

That means Mathieu is familiar with succeeding within a power structure like Division I football where black colleges are sometimes relegated to outsider status.

Better still, before moving to Dallas, Mathieu was executive director of the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, a job he took over at age 29 and held as the only African-American in high-level bowl management for years. There, he oversaw the beginning of a successful corporate relationship with Nokia.

So he knows how to sell it. Personable, energetic, connected, well-seasoned but still emerging as a leader, Mathieu is the person that Grambling should have hired in the first place two years ago.

GSU has a chance to rectify that now.

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GSU's seach nets finalists
Each finalist would bring major experience to vacant position
April 23, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Three finalists have emerged in Grambling State's six-month-old search for an athletics director.

They are: Grambling product Patrick Carter, athletics director at Alabama State; Troy Mathieu, athletics director for the Dallas Independent School District; and Vivian Fuller, who has experience as an AD at three Division I programs.

Interim GSU athletics director Duer Sharp had no comment on the candidates, other than to confirm their names. A timeline for hiring has also not been set, Sharp said.

Any decision by Grambling president Horace Judson must then be approved by the University of Louisiana System board, which oversees the university.

The athletics director at Grambling would work on a total operating sports revenues of upwards of $5.5 million, according to GSU's 2004 budget, the most recent numbers available.

Several critical hires must also be made quickly, including senior women's administrator, sports information director and women's soccer coach. A number of other current coaches, including those in men's and women's basketball, are working without contracts.

Grambling hasn't had an AD since October, when Willie Jeffries stepped down less than a year after taking over. Sharp — an assistant commissioner in GSU's home league, the Southwestern Athletic Conference — has been filling the role in the meantime.

There has been in recent days a significant alumni push for Carter, a Grambling native who holds a 1985 bachelor's and 1989 master's from GSU.

He has served as athletics director at Alabama State, a competitor in the SWAC, since March 2004. There, he administers an $8.5 million budget. Carter's resume material has said that he increased corporate sponsorships at ASU by 100 percent.

He also possesses critical experience in compliance, notable in the wake of an NCAA probe opened at Grambling earlier this year.

Carter was involved in different compliance roles with the SWAC from March 1997 until taking over in Alabama. Earlier, he served as an assistant commissioner involved with compliance with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association — an NCAA Division II conference of twelve historically African-American institutions — from August 1991 to March 1997.

Fuller holds a distinct place in history, becoming in 1997 the first black woman to run a Division I athletics department with a football program — and one of only a handful of women ever. But she remained at Tennessee State for just two seasons, despite winning a conference championship on the gridiron.

Fuller later filed a lawsuit against TSU, that state's only predominantly African-American public university, saying she was dismissed for aggressively seeking to protect women's sports. Her replacement was later fired after the NCAA placed Tennessee State on three years probation for a myriad of violations.

Fuller has since worked as an athletics director at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. She previously served as AD at Northeastern Illinois University of Chicago, associate athletics director at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and assistant director of athletics at North Carolina A&T.

Fuller earned a bachelor's from Fayetteville State in 1977, a master's at Idaho in 1978 and a doctorate from Iowa State in 1985. She was a track athlete at Fayetteville and served as volleyball and softball coach at A&T in the early 1980s.

Through Mathieu has run a high-school program since 1997, his inner-city district is surprisingly robust.

He's in charge of a 19-person department with a 2005 budget of $4.7 million, similar in size to GSU's. The DISD, the nation's 12th largest school district, serves more than 160,000 students over 351 square miles — and has produced several Grambling prospects, including breakout receiver LaKeldrick "Burner" Bridges. Mathieu has overseen more than $50 million in facility improvements and construction while with the DISD, and negotiated multi-million sponsorships deals with Coca-Cola and Bally Total Fitness.

Before moving to Dallas, Mathieu was executive director of the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, a job he took over in 1993 at age 29 and held as the only black person in high-level bowl management for years. There, he negotiated the successful longtime corporate relationship with Nokia, a $30 million deal.

He holds a 1987 master's degree from Western Illinois and a 1983 bachelor's — which he reportedly completed in just three years — from McNeese State.

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GSU's AD dilemma more complex with strong finalists
April 24, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Interviewers evaluating Grambling State's final trio of candidates for athletics director did so with the aid of a rating sheet.

Grades — on a scale of "5=UNSATISFACTORY" to "1=OUTSTANDING" — were to be given to each applicant on salient qualities like self-confidence, planning and organizational ability, and leadership.

All standard items in a good manager's toolbox.

The question of experience, however, is where a decision on who will be GSU's sixth athletics director becomes more complicated.

Grambling has whittled its six-month AD search down to three options — Patrick Carter, Troy Mathieu and Vivian Fuller — after considering as many as 40 applications.

Fuller might be considered the early frontrunner, if only because she grades well on experience in the broadest sense. She has served as athletics director at three college institutions over the years.

Carter, on the other hand, got his first AD job at Alabama State in 2004, after serving in a variety of capacities in conference front offices previous to that. Mathieu, AD for the Dallas Independent School District, has never worked as an administrator at the collegiate level.

Still, Fuller could meet resistance as a pioneering woman's administrator.

There were no female athletics directors last season in GSU's Southwestern Athletic Conference. Too, with the firing this month of Texas Southern's Priscilla Slade, that leaves just one woman on the SWAC Council of Presidents, Alabama A&M's Virginia Caples.

Fuller might answer that she's been there before: Upon taking over as AD at Tennessee State in 1997, she became the first black woman to run a Division I athletics department with a football program — and one of only a handful of women ever.

Carter, on the other hand, is attractive because of a more nuanced kind of experience: He has deep ties with the SWAC.

As a Grambling native, a GSU graduate, an athletics director inside the school's home conference, and a long-time former employee in its league offices, Carter is intimately familiar with the unique atmosphere surrounding the department.

He would be able to sell the school's brilliant legacy because he grew up around it.

That time spent at the conference level is notable, too, since it was primarily in the area of compliance. Grambling is awaiting word on an investigation that the NCAA opened last January.

Granted, most of the possible sins could end up being those of omission rather than commission: In the nearly two years since July 1, 2004, the school has either had a vacant AD chair or an interim for all but 313 days.

It couldn't hurt, though, to bring in a guy like Carter — who grades well after working in enforcement capacities at the 12-member Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and then the SWAC for nearly 15 years before taking over at ASU.

The question is: Can Carter bag the corporate whale?

For his part, Mathieu possesses critical experience in negotiating and managing lucrative corporate sponsorships and national events. Before accepting the position at DISD in 1997, he was executive director of the Sugar Bowl, one of the college football's most profitable postseason games.

In the late 1990s, the event's budget ran to more than $18 million annually. The organization's television contract with ABC was a $60-million deal. The previous sponsorship with Nokia brought in millions more.

Mathieu could revive corporate sponsorship deals that have been harder to come by since the departure of legendary coach Eddie Robinson — dollars that would permeate the entire university's budget. Mathieu has walked into multi-national business offices and emerged with checks that included seven zeroes at the end.

Yet there will be those who question whether he can run a college department, even though the DISD is comparable in staff and budget to athletic programs in the SWAC.

No easy choice, this.

Fuller, with perhaps the deepest administrative resume, is a groundbreaker in the mode of former AD Willie Jeffries. Carter, the most intimately familiar applicant, might make the easiest transition. Mathieu, the brilliant moneyman, might be the greatest risk — but with an even greater financial reward.

Checking the appropriate score, I'd give Grambling's difficulty level in making this decision a "1=OUTSTANDING."

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Grambling State AD search, yes, is still ongoing
May 15, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — A trio of finalists in Grambling State's ongoing search for an athletics director was announced three weeks ago.

Yet there's still no progress to report on filling the position, said interim Grambling AD Duer Sharp.

"It's in (GSU president) Dr. (Horace) Judson's hands," said Sharp. "He's the president. I move when he tells me to move."

Sharp could give no timeline for a decision, saying: "He'll make an offer, and then negotiations will begin."

Waiting since the April 23 announcement are Grambling product Patrick Carter, athletics director at Alabama State; Troy Mathieu, athletics director for the Dallas Independent School District; and Vivian Fuller, who has experience as an AD at three Division I programs.

Well, and some increasingly edgy supporters, too.

"I think it's quite ridiculous that it has taken the administration of GSU this length of time to locate a proper athletic director," said Grambling native Mark A. Hunter, a lobbyist who graduated in 1996 with a degree in political science. "So far, three names have surfaced, yet the GSU administration knew that the former director would not be at Grambling for more than a year."

Former AD Willie Jeffries signed a contract to run through January 2006, but resigned just 10 months later. The position has since been filled on an interim basis by Sharp, a loaned executive from GSU's home league, the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Prior to that, Grambling had no athletics director in place from July 1, 2004, when Judson fired Al Dennis III in one of his first acts as new school president, until Jeffries took over. Some have suggested that the lack of institutional control led to an NCAA investigation of the school that opened in January.

"The administration was excited about the candidates early on, and I thought that the search would have been completed by now," said Grambling alum Autry "Lex" Alexis, CEO of a marketing firm. "I'm sure that the ongoing NCAA investigation and the threat of more budget cuts has had an impact on the process, as well as the candidates."

As the AD search has dragged on, talk turned to an alleged breakdown in negotiations for one or more of the finalists. Rumors, and at least one poll, began to circulate.

Fans at GramblingStateUniversity, as of Sunday, were solidly behind Carter — who garnered 87.5 percent of the vote in polling that began the day after GSU released the finalists' names.
Alexis has thrown his support behind Carter, as well.

"He would be my favorite because his strength is in compliance and that is a serious problem at GSU," Alexis said. "He also is an underrated fundraiser."

The prevailing theory from e-mails, message boards and street-committee gossip was that Mathieu had been offered the job, but that contract talks soured over money. There was even a rumor on campus that the search was on the verge of opening again.

Sharp denied that this week. Mathieu, in fact, said he had not spoken to anyone from Grambling in weeks. Carter and Fuller were unavailable for comment.

Supporters say the inexplicably long wait is fueling this widespread speculation.

"Grambling really needs to develop a faster method of locating qualified candidates and placing them in these positions," Hunter said, "so that the university can move forward to more pertinent issues at hand."

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Grambling job brings Mathieu home
May 24, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — For Troy Mathieu, the Grambling State athletics director job was a chance to get back home.

An Edgard native, Mathieu worked as an executive with the Sugar Bowl for a decade before taking over as AD at the Dallas Independent School District. He was chosen late Tuesday after a six-month search that produced a trio of finalists.

"It's a chance to continue doing what I like to do, working in the business of athletics," Mathieu told The News-Star on Tuesday afternoon. "I'll work to get all of the programs as competitive as we can possibly get them."

He will be recommended for the position by school president Horace Judson later this week at a meeting of the University of Louisiana System board, which oversees Grambling.

"I fully support Dr. Judson's recommendation," said 1990 GSU graduate Kenn Rashad, a Dallas resident familiar with his work in the local school district. "I think Mr. Mathieu is just the boost that the athletic program needs."

Grambling hasn't had an athletics director since October, when Willie Jeffries stepped down less than a year after taking over. Duer Sharp — an assistant commissioner in GSU's home league, the Southwestern Athletic Conference — has been serving as interim ever since.

The other finalists for the position were Grambling product Patrick Carter, athletics director at Alabama State; and Vivian Fuller, who has experience as an AD at three Division I programs.

"We were fortunate to have a pool of great applicants," Judson said in an evening news release.

Mathieu holds a 1987 master's degree from Western Illinois and a 1983 bachelor's — which he completed in just three years — from McNeese State.

Before accepting the position at DISD in 1997, Mathieu was best known for his work as executive director of the Sugar Bowl, one of the college football's most profitable postseason games.

During his tenure in the late 1990s, the event's budget ran to more than $18 million annually. The Sugar Bowl's television contract with ABC was a $60-million deal. A sponsorship deal that Mathieu spearheaded with Nokia brought in millions more.

"This is a great opportunity for Grambling State University," Judson said in the release. "This is the kind of organization, leadership and commitment we are looking for at the university."

The athletics director at Grambling would work oversee 18 intercollegiate sports on a total operating sports revenues of upwards of $5.5 million, according to GSU's 2004 budget, the most recent numbers available. Mathieu is expected to start in mid-June.

"I'm excited about it," Mathieu said. "It's a wonderful opportunity at this point in my professional career to take on a new challenge and come back to my home state of Louisiana."

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About time
May 23, 2006

Forgive Troy Mathieu if he sounds a bit relieved. When Mathieu - AD for the sprawling Dallas Independent School District - was selected Tuesday as GSU's new athletics director, pending review by the University of Louisiana System Board, it brought to a close a too-long sixth-month period at Grambling without a full-time AD.

Yes, Mathieu was named a finalist. But that was more than four weeks ago. The wait was, at times, unbearable.

Working as he does in the Dallas market, Mathieu was lashed relentlessly by a large contingency of local media - writers so aggressive that they were calling the DISD's personnel department trying to ferret out information on his possible departure.

When Mathieu was able to talk, finally, about the new job on Tuesday afternoon, it was like a weight had been lifted. He's a guy who's ready to get started.

And now, finally, he can.

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New GSU AD knows prosperity
In previous jobs, Mathieu bettered deals, facilities
May 25, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Troy Mathieu said he leaves his post as athletics director for the Dallas Independent School District with no small measure of pride in helping coaches succeed — despite the obstacles.

"What I was probably most proud of was the way we were able to maintain our competitiveness and improve — even though we were at a disadvantage as an urban district," Mathieu said.

Mathieu, 42, will be recommended as Grambling State's new AD to the school's governing University of Louisiana System Board later this month.

He would replace Willie Jeffries, who resigned last October after less than a year on the job. Duer Sharp, an assistant Southwestern Athletic Conference commissioner, has been serving as interim athletics director ever since.

In many ways, Mathieu's experience in the 49-school inner-city DISD mirrors the financial struggles of the historically black GSU, as this tiny Division I-AA institution attempts to carve out its place among those both larger and richer.

Mathieu is perhaps best known as the architect of the Sugar Bowl's $30 million sponsorship deal with Nokia. He also helped negotiate a $60 million television contract with ABC.

But he later found remarkable success in the highly charged world of Dallas politics, implementing a series of sweeping improvements during a nine-year tenure. Over that time, member schools in the DISD won 11 state titles in team sports.

"We were also able to establish one of the finest urban districts in the country," Mathieu said. "In most metropolitan areas, many families are moving to the suburbs and pouring unlimited money into those newer districts — and in many cases the urban districts were left behind."

Mathieu, an impressive negotiator, would oversee the installation of new tracks across the district and each DISD football program received a $21,000 digital video system before the 2004 campaign. He secured sponsorships to fund $300,000 in new scoreboards for the DISD's main stadiums, as well.

"There was a lack of attention for those students who deserved the right to play at the highest level and in the finest facility," Mathieu said. "We could directly impact that in Dallas. We have rivaled some of the best in the nation, and been able to level the playing field facility-wise."

The Jesse Owens Memorial Athletic Complex, a $40 million facility, was the first multipurpose athletic complex built by the DISD in 40 years. Opened last fall, it includes both the 12,000-seat John Kincaide Stadium and a basketball arena that seats 7,500. A new $1.9 million softball facility opened in 2004.

He paid for it all by flooding the formerly threadbare district with corporate dollars, establishing sponsorship deals worth millions between the DISD and companies including Nike, Bally Total Fitness, Gatorade, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi-Cola, Russell Athletic Corp. and HealthSouth.

"I am sure he will do well," said Grambling resident and fan Paul Taylor. "He's got a history of increasing business sponsorships, and seeking out corporate dollars. We need someone who will beat the pavement trying to get those dollars into such a historic institution like Grambling."

Mathieu also established a series of lucrative special events, with proceeds funneled back into the participating schools. That included the Dallas Morning News Basketball Classic, a prep basketball tripleheader that attracted 17,500 fans and generated more than $200,000 in revenue in its inaugural season.

"We got in the trenches, found out what the needs of the coaches were and administratively removed the obstacles so they could coach," Mathieu said. "Their kids then achieved at the highest level."

Mathieu's record of working closely with coaches has attracted praise from those who would report to him at Grambling.

"I'll meet him when everybody else does," said men's basketball coach Larry Wright. "But I've been impressed with everything I've heard so far about his career."

Mathieu, who also interviewed for the AD position with league foe Texas Southern in 2000, was originally hired away from the Sugar Bowl in November 1997. He briefly left in April 2000 to take over as president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Sports Commission, but returned to the DISD three months later.

Prior to his time in Texas, Mathieu served as assistant executive director and then executive director of the Sugar Bowl, where he established a reputation for fund-raising and marketing. The bowl eventually had working business relationships, beyond the blockbuster naming and broadcast deals with Nokia and ABC, with Delta, Eastman Kodak, Gatorade, Oldsmobile and Wilson Sporting Goods.

Under Mathieu's watch, the Sugar Bowl increased payouts from $8 million to $15.65 million in his first three years. That led to recognition as the 23rd most influential person in college athletics by College Sports Magazine in June 1996.

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A Black and Gold bias?
May 24, 2006

As happy as some Grambling supporters are about Tuesday's naming of Troy Mathieu as athletics director, another faction remains frustrated.

There are those who think the GSU administration has a bias against GSU graduates - a situation, they say, that doomed the candidacy of fellow finalist Patrick Carter, now the athletics director at league foe Alabama State.

Carter, a Grambling native with two degrees from GSU, would have brought both familiarity with the intricacies of the SWAC and critical experience in compliance to a department under investigation by the NCAA for possible irregularities.

So, it's no surprise that the well-liked Carter drew widespread fan support, including an e-mail campaign to the president.

But, all along, it seemed the administration was of the mind that a rainmaker like Mathieu, who has overseen multi-million deals with the Dallas Independent School District and the Sugar Bowl, could buy as much compliance as needed.

Money solves that problem, and most any other.

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At the crossroads
There's plenty to accomplish for GSU's new athletics director
May 28, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Troy Mathieu, perhaps understandably, is unwilling to say too much about what he hopes to do first as athletics director at Grambling State.

After all, where to start in a position that's been vacant for half of the two years since Horace Judson became president at GSU?

"I haven't had a chance to grasp and evaluate where everything is; I know there is a lot waiting on me," Mathieu said. "Maybe a week in, I will be able to digest where we are at."

Duer Sharp, an assistant commissioner with GSU's home conference, has served as interim athletics director since October.

Still, this has been a shockingly uncertain period for an athletics program that was once the model of consistency, having had just five ADs over its first 100 years.

Mathieu said he will take a measured approach.

"There will be assortment of items waiting on me that I will have to tackle," he said. "What you think might be your priority today may change to tomorrow. I want to get in and meet everybody, and then try to figure out the best plan to get us where we need to be."

The temptation, once Mathieu arrives in mid-June, is to encourage him to hit the road and drum up needed sponsorships.

After all, Mathieu's reputation both at the Dallas Independent School District — and, before that, at the Sugar Bowl — was built on landing the corporate whales.

More immediately pressing needs, however, are found closer to home.

GSU's new athletics director steps into a turbulent situation, where job openings have gone unfilled, and many projects are uncompleted.

It's tempting to awe over the shiny football trophies from last year, yet other programs are hovering near the bottom of the league.

Then, he faces an ongoing investigation by the NCAA. Many say a lack of institutional control drew the interest of college athletics' governing body.

"Our new AD should first look to shore-up our deficiencies in NCAA compliance and sports information," said Donavan Simmons, a 1997 Grambling graduate. "Filling all vacant head coaching positions is also a major priority."

Emerging from instability
There are other tangible results from this extended period of instability.

Just this week, Southern — Grambling's principal rival in the Southwestern Athletic Conference — earned its fifth consecutive Commissioner's Cup, recognition for overall excellence in sponsored sports.

Despite its dominance in football, where Grambling went undefeated in SWAC play on the way to the title, its only other championship for the just-ended academic year was in men's outdoor track.

That pushed GSU down to third overall in the Cup race, behind Jackson State.

Mathieu made it clear that he's intends to push for improvement across the athletic spectrum.

"None of this stuff is magic; it's getting people to understand what types of things they are going to be asked to do," he said. "We're going to let people do their jobs. That is, if they can do their jobs. If they can't, then we will go in another direction. It's about their enthusiasm for the task at hand."

Mathieu will also have to prioritize a laundry list of unfinished business within the department.

Several employees, including both men's and women's basketball coaches, worked last season without a contract. A new hoops arena is set to open, but much about that project remains unknown — from how it will be maintained to what it will be named.

Former athletics director Willie Jeffries, who stayed for less than 10 months, announced a scoreboard project last summer. Where that stands is uncertain.

Planning for next year, from promotions to the media guides, has yet to be started.

"Grambling's name is so strong that we need someone to just push that name out there to the consumer, whether it be season-ticket drives or game-day giveaways," said Grambling resident Paul Taylor, an avid supporter of GSU athletics. "He needs to come in and raise the corporate dollars, then raise this athletic program to higher heights."

Setting a mandate
With that much to do, Mathieu must get some help.

And lots of it.

"A successful athletics program, like any other business starts with qualified and competent leadership and staff," Simmons said. "It's been far too long since Grambling has had this."

Among the positions currently posted on the university Web site — many are months old — are compliance officer, sports information director, assistant SID, soccer coach and head trainer.

"I've followed Troy Mathieu's career, and he has done an outstanding job in the Dallas area in generating revenue, facility upgrades and just making certain that those guys are competing at a very high level," said GSU football coach Melvin Spears. "But he'll have come in and lead the effort to fill all these positions first. Many of those are pertinent to move our program forward. We have to have outstanding folks in those positions."

Finally, Mathieu will have to heal any rifts caused by his own selection.

He emerged from a trio of finalists that included a Grambling product, current Alabama State athletics director Patrick Carter.

Some in GSU's tight-knit alumni base tended to side with one of their own, and Mathieu will have sell himself to them as much as he sells Grambling to everybody else.

"I believe Dr. Judson's hire of Mr. Mathieu as AD is in the best interest of GSU," said D'Wayne Priestley, a vocal product from the Dallas area. "It would have been quite popular and endearing to many concerns to hire Mr. Carter; however, I believe Dr. Judson's action placed GSU's best interest first. Now, I hope that Mr. Mathieu can meet the high expectations of many GSU alums and friends, and complement Dr. Judson's vision, as GSU grows into the 21st century."

Mathieu spoke to that challenge this week, when he mentioned an early desire to "friend"-raise rather than fund-raise.

"It's a whole discovery process," Mathieu said. "It's not just running out asking people to give."

Fans like Simmons can't predict where Mathieu will begin his reconstruction project at Grambling. But Mathieu's high-energy style — and a resume filled dotted with initiatives that bolstered both facilities and the bottom line — has them energized.

"Judging by his credentials and experience running an enormous program like that of DISD, I have the utmost confidence that Mathieu will surround himself with the best people for the jobs," said Simmons. "Once this is done, he has shown through his involvement with the Sugar Bowl that the marketing aspect and corporate sponsorship that is so desperately needed will soon follow."

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Pack a lunch
June 04, 2006

Incoming Grambling athletics director Troy Mathieu is tying up loose ends at his old job, a similar position with the Dallas Independent School District.

Meanwhile, new ones are coming unraveled at GSU.

"I'm trying to transfer out properly," Mathieu said, "making sure they know where everything is. We are bringing closure to one school year, and setting up staff training for the following year. A lot of coaches have to get their training during the summer and we have to get it set up."

Mathieu was in Lincoln Parish looking for a new house late last week, even as his complex task at Grambling became somehow more, well, complex. GSU administrators declined to renew contracts for both the softball and the baseball coaches - adding to a long list of department vacancies.

Mathieu is scheduled to start at Grambling on June 19.

He had better pack a lunch. That looks to be a long workday.

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On the upbeat
June 20, 2006

They fired the baseball and softball coaches just days before he was brought in. Yet new Grambling athletics director Troy Mathieu, on his second day at work, is upbeat.

He just got finished filling a staggering eight openings for coaches last year as athletics director of the Dallas Independent School District, a department which suffers from frighteningly similar budget and competitive woes.

Far from overwhelmed, Mathieu is loose and confident.

Sure, he's navigating through a complicated first week of work at the school, which is under the cloud of an on-going NCAA investigation. Yet he's all smiles.

"I'm just getting a sense of the lay of the land," Mathieu said. "But I'm not afraid of a little work."

That attitude - aware, but can do - will bolster Mathieu as he sorts through the mess at Grambling, which has been without a full-time athletics director for about half of president Horace Judson's two-year tenure.

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Grambling AD not easing his way into new job
June 22, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Troy Mathieu has a copy of the Grambling State athletics department budget, and it's dog eared already.

That reading happens at night, after hours.

Mathieu's days have been spent so far walking the campus, getting an up-close look at what he's got to work with as GSU's new athletics director.

He's also set up meetings with the staff, beginning with those who do the heavy lifting like the maintenance crew.

Talk about working from the ground up.

Mathieu wants buy in from those who currently work at GSU before he gets to work on hiring new ones.

"I know the focus is on getting staffed up," said Mathieu, who started his new position Monday. "But I've got to get a feel for things first."

Posted openings in Mathieu's department include senior women's administrator, sports information director, head soccer coach and assistant athletics director for the sports radio network. Contracts for both the baseball and softball coaches were also not renewed just prior to Mathieu's arrival.

Mathieu arrived with some experience at dealing with such things, having hired eight coaches last year as athletics director at the sprawling Dallas Independent School District.

"You move methodically," Mathieu said. "You just start hiring one at a time. I'd rather make a good hire, than a quick hire, though. I don't want to bring in someone that we regret on the back end."

Outgoing interim AD Duer Sharp, who has returned to his previous assignment in the Southwestern Athletic Conference office, left a dossier of applications - including, Mathieu said, several for baseball coach - and initiated the advertising process.

"I intend to make some calls, as well," Mathieu said.

But first, he'll have to learn all the names, figure out all the nuances of the campus and study hard.

Then, there's the NCAA.

An ongoing investigation into his department by college sports' governing body, launched in January, promises to be an absorbing side issue in this rebuilding effort.

Mathieu said he hasn't had time to review the probe, and didn't yet have a clear grasp of its parameters. But he promised to make that a priority, one that has been added to what seems like an ever-growing list.

Mathieu remains undaunted.

"We'll get in there and get to work," he said. "It might take some time, but we'll get there."

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Count down
July 04, 2006

The coaching searches at Grambling are getting the most attention, but there are stacks of responsibilities teetering all around Troy Mathieu.

For instance, just days into the new AD's tenure, he's had to dive into scheduling for 2007 and beyond. There are current employees without contracts. Work on the football media and recruiting guide hasn't begun.
"It's just punching through the details," said the always-sunny Mathieu. "I'm getting a quick read on the contracts, and getting started on the schedule. Everybody has been really positive. The welcome has been overwhelming. Everywhere I go, people just say: 'Time to get to work.'"


Sixty days. That's how long Grambling has until it's football season opener in Birmingham, Ala., against Hampton. That's to say nothing of the rest of the sports that follow.

Yet Mathieu continues to plow through, based on force of personality alone. He's a marvel to be around - never down and never slowing down, it seems.

Grambling has gotten itself a compliance officer, and a head trainer. Robinson Stadium hasn't looked this polished in July since I've been covering Grambling football. There's also talk of the pending hire of a sports information guy.

Yes, Mathieu just might get there.

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Grambling begins work on hiring coaches
New leaders needed for the university's baseball, soccer and softball programs
July 5, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — New Grambling State athletics director Troy Mathieu has settled in, but he's anything but settled.

Awards and framed momentos, including a certificate as a certified athletic administrator, are up behind his desk. Other tasks, like hiring three coaches, look to take a bit longer.

"We haven't set an itinerary (for the hirings)," Mathieu said. "I'm getting familiar with the candidates. There is some strong interest."

Mathieu said he expects to begin callbacks and then scheduling interviews after the holiday. He did not release any names.

Grambling State's openings include those vacated by baseball coach James "Sapp" Randall, softball coach Connie Garcee and first-year women's soccer coach Cesar Martinez.

Randall, an assistant to legendary former coach Wilbert Ellis for 13 seasons, could only manage a 29-80 mark after taking over in 2004. But he continued recruiting throughout what would be a last-place season in the Southwestern Athletic Conference's West division.

Signings included Fort Worth-Polytechnic High pitcher Mario Mendoza and two California prospects, outfielder Richard Amaro of Oxnard Community College and shortstop Brandon Young of Carpinteria High.

"The fear is from parents whose son signed to play here," Mathieu said. "What does this mean to him? I'm here to tell them that we will honor that commitment."

Garcee's team was 3-53 overall in 2005, and last in the West. GSU soccer slumped to 9-12 overall, with a 5-3 SWAC mark, just a year after winning the school's first-ever soccer title under departed coach Matthew Okoh.

"I just wish GSU put as much time and research into this as it does as when selecting a football coach," Grambling fan Paul Taylor said in a Fan Blog at on Tuesday. "Until they do, the Commissioner's Cup will continue to elude GSU."

Mathieu, who last month took over a program that hasn't won the all-sports league trophy in nine years, knows it's going to take more than bringing in new blood. He's gotten to work on the care and feeding of those already on staff, as well.

Mathieu began with an ambitious schedule of one-on-one meetings with coaches. He said those sessions have gone well.

"I want to let them understand where we're coming from, from the administrative standpoint," Mathieu said. "I'm here to help them accomplish their goals. That's what I am all about. So, I'm going through a process of finding out how we can help, how we can expanded our role and get them there."

Mathieu stresses that he isn't accomplishing anything alone.

"Everywhere here, things are upbeat, positive," Mathieu said. "Everyone wants to see us take it up a notch. The continuing theme has been: How can we help? I couldn't ask for more."

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