Brian Mackin has been the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s athletic director since 2007, after five years as senior associate athletic director for external affairs for the school. Mackin’s tenure has brought success both on the field and in the classroom; the Blazers most recently had their highest finish in 12 years in the Directors’ Cup standings. Mr. Mackin was good enough to offer some thoughts on hiring coaches, facilities upgrades, as well as the importance of technology for senior administrators.
In the last year, you’ve hired a head football and head basketball coach. When making high-profile hires, what can you do to ensure those coaches’ success and help them hit the ground running?
First, it’s sitting down with that coach and talking about expectations. I think it’s important with a young head coach in setting certain goals, reachable goals for the first year. With the two head coaches that we hired, everything is new to them being a head coach for the first time. You’re trying to help them with the transition into the position.
Secondly, we want to talk about the academic expectations. If they have been an assistant coach and are getting a head coaching job for the first time, they really have no idea what all it takes from an academic support standpoint.
There is so much that goes into being a head coach — managing a budget, academics, compliance, it’s important that you talk to your coaches on the front end.
There have been some recent, exciting facilities upgrades at UAB, with others hopefully still to come. Tell us about your upcoming projects and discuss how you have overcome the challenges of working toward new and upgraded facilities.
Over the last three or four years, we have made several additions and upgrades to our facilities, such as our strength and conditioning center, sports medicine, a new academic center. We have added an on-campus softball facility, as well as a hitting facility adjacent to softball. We’ve resurfaced our track.
We are also looking to add an athletic complex that would house our football offices, locker room, meeting rooms. There would also be space for academics in the facility. That’s in the planning stages right now.
We’re also in discussions with the medical side of our campus about building a joint facility that would include exercise medicine and an athletic complex.
Regarding the challenges of working toward new and upgraded facilities, we’ve had to be very strategic with our upgrades. My philosophy has been that the facilities that we have built are for the student well-being; those being the academic center, the training room and the strength facility which affect all of our student-athletes, rather than benefit just one team.
What aspect of your tenure as UAB Athletic Director are you most proud of?
Without question, it’s the turnaround that we have made with our APR. When I became Athletics Director, we had six teams under 900, and as of last year, every program we have is above 930. We have increased our academic support and improved our academic facilities. I think the turnaround we have had has been recognized as one of the biggest in the history of the APR.
Conference USA lost a few members recently and will be gaining several more in the near future— has realignment affected UAB’s strategic planning and goals?
We are a committed partner with Conference USA. I feel that this conference gives us everything that we need to compete, both on and off the field. It’s a well-respected academic conference and the realignment has only reinforced that Conference USA is a conference that schools want to be in. The new members are excited to be in our league, they lobbied for membership. There are others out there who would like to be in Conference USA. We’re very fortunate to be part of Conference USA. Our Commissioner (Britton Banowsky) has been proactive about identifying potential new members and recruiting them. We continue to be excited about the future of our conference.
With our bowl tie-ins that our conference has, and the television package we have, as well as the new agreement with the BCS, we expect to increase our revenue.
How has Win AD impacted the planning and the execution of goals for UAB Athletics?
We have used the software in a number of ways and I used it in both the football and men’s basketball coaching hires. I have used it in analyzing coaches’ contracts, APR information, as a source to gather information on potential candidates. I’ve used the program in looking at football scheduling and guarantees, and that has been tremendously helpful in the process.
It’s also been helpful as we go through our budget to analyze personnel and where we are competitively from a salary comparison standpoint. Win AD has been an integral part of many of our planning sessions.