Randy Spetman says he had 953 athletes at the Air Force Academy and he knew all their names.
By PETE YOUNG
Published April 30, 2004
TAMPA - Linda Simmons asked Randy Spetman how he might try to raise the profile of the women's athletic teams at South Florida, such as the nationally ranked softball team.
"Have you met (the softball team)?" Spetman replied. When Simmons said no, Spetman said, "That is pretty incredible to me."
Spetman, the former athletic director at Air Force and the first AD finalist to interview for the USF position, presented himself Thursday as a highly involved leader. His view of USF athletics has prominent alumni and supporters such as Simmons, who is on the AD search committee, on a familiar basis with the student-athletes.
"I had 953 athletes at the Air Force Academy and I knew all their names," said Spetman, who was stunned when his son, Brian, captain of the swim team at Arizona State, told him he had never met the school's AD. "They knew they could come talk to me. And they didn't have to come to me, because I was out at practice.
"I'm a hands-on guy. I'm a team builder, and we do that by making everyone a part of the family."
Spetman, 51, also emphasized his planning and fundraising abilities. Finances are especially vital as USF prepares to move into the Big East, whose schools have much larger budgets, in the fall of 2005. In 81/2 years at Air Force, Spetman led a department that raised $14-million to $16-million annually. Search committee member Brian Lamb, a former USF basketball player, questioned Spetman about preparing student-athletes for life after college. "It's critical that they're prepared to go out and be leaders and ambassadors for the university," Lamb said.
Spetman said his experience separates him from the other two finalists, Michigan State's Mark Hollis and Virginia's Jon Oliver, who are associate ADs.
"What you get with me is a person who has done it, been a part of it," Spetman said.
Spetman played defensive end for Air Force, was a squadron commander in Desert Storm and chief of safety at a nuclear weapons base in Germany before the Air Force asked him to apply for the AD job. He retired as a colonel this spring because of administrative restructuring in the wake of a sexual assault scandal that did not involve the athletic department. But he is determined to remain in athletics. He recently interviewed for AD openings at East Carolina and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, and has applied at Washington.
"The student-athlete keeps you young, and I want to stay young a long time," Spetman said. "I have something to give back to the kids."