Rob Mullens named Oregon athletic director

Ivar Vong

When introduced at a press conference Thursday, new Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens was consistently described as a strong businessman with a keen intellect, which impressed president Richard Lariviere and head football coach Chip Kelly.

“Rob Mullens brings a deep reservoir of experience to the University of Oregon,” Lariviere said. “He has played key roles in managing large and complex organizations at the University of Kentucky and University of Maryland, and those universities have flourished as a result. His management and financial expertise will be invaluable to the UO as our athletics department continues to thrive and secures its place as one of the preeminent programs in the nation.”

Lariviere has often mentioned he wanted strong business practices in the department after learning former AD Mike Bellotti did not have a formal contract in place, and Mullens certainly brings a wealth of business experience to the athletic department.

“He brings the values and practices we were looking for,” Lariviere said.

Mullens oversaw a financially successful athletic department at Kentucky. Much like Oregon, Kentucky has a self-sustaining athletic department with a budget of $79 million, while Oregon’s, Lariviere said, is a shade under $70 million.

Mullens worked as executive associate director of athletics for Kentucky from 2002 to 2006. From 1996 to 2002, he worked at the University of Maryland, first as assistant director of athletics for business, and ending as executive senior associate director of athletics and chief of staff. He also served as senior athletic business manager for the University of Miami from 1994 to 1996, and was an accountant and auditor at Ernst & Young in Raleigh, N.C., before that.

Head football coach Chip Kelly was part of the search committee for the new athletic director, and said Mullens was the person he wanted to hire. What stood out most to him was Mullen’s intelligence.

“First and foremost, he is really, really smart. People are jumping on the table for him,” Kelly said. “I think he has everything you want in an athletic director.”

According to Kelly, Mullens turned down the same position at the University of Miami to take the job at Oregon.

Mullens, who was accompanied by his wife, Jane, and has two sons, Cooper and Tanner, grew up in Morgantown, W. Va., where he attended West Virginia University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in sports management.

Mullens said he was the first person in his family to graduate from college, and credited that to growing up in a university community.

Mullens also said current Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart and former Oregon and Kentucky head football coach Rich Brooks played crucial roles in guiding him to Oregon. Barnhart served as Oregon State’s athletic director and in Oregon’s athletic department, while Brooks is widely credited for reviving Oregon’s football program in the mid-’90s. Mullens said both men were his mentors and it would be hard to leave Kentucky because of their role in his life.

Lariviere said not only does Mullens have the strong business background, but he can also push Oregon to greater athletic heights. Certainly, Mullens does not seem afraid to embrace the high expectations surrounding the program.

“We want to win championships. What attracted me to the University of Oregon is that people are not afraid to say, ‘We want to win championships,'” Mullens said.

Lariviere mentioned Oregon’s highest-ever ranking of 14th in the Director’s Cup, which is a national poll that measures success in 20 collegiate sports. He said Mullens must continue that success.

Mullens has the proper skill set to not only maintain Oregon’s ranking, Lariviere said, but to push it even higher.

“He has got to nurture the success Chip Kelly and Vin Lananna have brought to this program. He has those skills in spades,” Lariviere said.

One main challenge Mullens faces is maintaining booster relations with the athletic department, something Mike Bellotti was able to do from the beginning. Mullens said he contacted Nike founder and prominent booster Phil Knight to introduce himself, and while he hasn’t contacted other boosters yet, it will be one of his priorities.

Mullens will be paid $450,000 annually, with potential for incentives up to $150,000 and deferred compensation of $50,000 annually. The length of the contract has not yet been determined, but Lariviere said contracts of longer than three years have to be approved by the chancellor of the Oregon University System, which should take place soon. Lariviere also confirmed the agreement would be longer than three years.

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