June will mark the two-year anniversary of Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt’s tenure at the University of Miami. Hocutt took over in 2008 following Paul De’s resignation after being the face of the athletic department for 16 years. Hocutt has cherished the past two years.
“The opportunity to be at the U and be part of its excellence and traditions of championships is something that is inspiring each and every day,” Hocutt said.
While programs like swimming, diving, baseball and women’s tennis have been staples for success in previous years, Hocutt feels like all athletic departments are on the rise.
“When you play at this level you expect to win and be the best,” Hocutt said. “That is our student-athletes’ goal. They come to the University of Miami to be the best in the country at their sport or even the best in the world at their sport. I truly believe we are on the cusp of returning this athletics program to the pinnacle of intercollegiate athletics.”
One of these programs which Hocutt is referring to that is on the rise is the football team. The football program has seen a two-win improvement each of its last three years. The question that is in the forefront of every Cane fan’s mind is whether head coach Randy Shannon will receive a contract extension as Shannon enters the final year of his four-year contract this fall.
“I’m excited from what I saw this spring in spring football. We are working hard and diligent on a contract extension,” Hocutt said. “[Shannon’s] going to continue to be our football coach for a long, long time.”
While Hocutt stressed how every year the goal is to win a national championship, he realizes building a sustainable program for 12 to 15 years doesn’t happen overnight.
“Anything short of winning that sixth national championship trophy would not meet our expectations,” Hocutt said of UM’s yearly goal for football. “For us to win an ACC Championship game and go to the BCS, that is the next step for this program. We are on the right track. We need to focus and worry about getting better each and every day.”
Hocutt also addressed women’s basketball head coach Katie Meier’s contract situation. Meier is at the tail end of her initial five-year contract and will need a new contract next season. This past year, the women’s basketball team improved nine games from the previous year and reached the WNIT Finals.
“We are working on a contract extension for Coach Meier,” Hocutt said. “We’re excited about the success that that program had… I have never seen significant improvement from one year to the next with a team as I saw in our women’s basketball program this year. The teamwork, tenacity, which I saw on the court, was great to see. That is a reflection of Coach Meier and her positive attitude.”
Hocutt said the last five years for UM have been all about change. Since 2004, Miami has moved from the Big East to the ACC, hired a new football coach, got a new athletic director and changed football stadiums. That doesn’t even include the renovations at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field and the new 29,000-square foot Field House adjacent to the BankUnited Center, where the basketball team practices.
But the biggest challenge for Hocutt is increasing fan attendance at sports games.
“It’s critical that we continue to reach out and engage the student body,” Hocutt said. “I was very pleased with the numbers we had in football this year. I thought our support at men’s basketball was solid until the middle part of January. I don’t have all the answers. I know that working together with Category 5, our student-athletes and our coaches, we can develop strategy and tactics to increase attendance as we move forward.”
Hocutt strives for perfection and wants the best for the student-athletes at UM. While improvements have been made under Hocutt’s watch, he wants to see upgrades in the Hecht Athletic Center, a place where student-athletes spend 85 percent of their time.
“We’ve significant upgrades that need to be made that will have a profound impact on this department for the next decade,” Hocutt said of the estimated $15-million project. “Those being [an]athletic training facility, which is not adequate. It needs to be improved. Our academic support facility needs to be updated. Our football team facility needs to be upgraded. Particularly the entrance into our football facility. It’s nonexistent right now. Our student-athletes deserve better. We have plans that are in its final stages of being developed to address those initiatives.”
Hocutt also addressed the possibility of adding an internet streaming contract with the University of Miami. This year, ACC Select was no longer active. The ACC ends its football and basketball TV contracts after next year, and Hocutt hopes that opportunity will arise for more athletic coverage whether it is on the internet or television when a new contract is set in place.
Hocutt has had conversations with Sam Grogg, Dean of the School of Communication, in hopes of give students from the School of Communication more broadcast opportunities to benefit recruiting and increase UM’s fan base with games streamed via the internet.
“There are always financial hurdles and the production is the cost. Hopefully through new ACC relationships or expanded ACC relationships and partnership with the School of Communication, we can get back to streaming athletic events,” Hocutt said.
Hocutt is proud to say that the student-athletes at UM are students first and athletes second.
“I am firm believer on continuous improvement and building things the right way,” Hocutt said. “Our student-athletes here received the American Coaches Trophy for the highest graduation success rate in the country in February for our football program. Our football program was ranked seventh in the country in terms of Academic Progress Score. Our women’s student-athletes have a cumulative 3.1 grade point average. We have a great story to tell at the University of Miami.”
Justin Antweil may be contacted at email@example.com.