Rick Costello Named New Director of Milwaukee Athletics

MPTracks and Panther fans everywhere give a very warm welcome to Mr. Rick Costello, who has been named the new UWM AD replacing interim AD Charlie Gross who had been filling in after George Koonce's abrupt departure.

 Panther fans- meet your new AD, Rick Costello

Costello's public presentation which helped secure him the job can be heard over at PantherU.com: http://pantheru.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/rick-costellos-presentation/. Personally, I liked all three of the final candidates and found them to all have the qualifications necessary for this high position, but Costello seems to have the most experience that an athletics program and school like ours needs. His experience and expertise in many areas neatly fit with UWM's culture and the need to address our major needs:

  • Huge fundraising experience, experience building facilities (new 7,000 seat East Side Arena circa 2014?)
  • Has balanced multiple multi-million dollar budgets (budgets much larger than our own)
  • Holds a Master of Business Administration degree- something that a department who has long been a lo$ing business might benefit from.
  • Experience turning around a D-I bottom feeder's image (South Florida)
  • Experience in an urban university setting (Costello will be leaving his current job as Rutgers Deputy AD)
  • And..... (most important to us basketball fans..) he knows and loves the game of college basketball. Or he at least liked it enough to be the assistant coach on two teams (Lehigh and Cabrini College).

The university spent lots of money getting a defined "M" logo and upgrading Pounce, yet has done next to nothing to promote these very nice looking image advancements...

He will need to recognize that everything in UWM's AD starts with and is driven by the men's basketball program. That is in no way a diss to the women's team who almost upset Michigan State earlier this season, or to the men's or women's soccer teams (Sarah Hagen is among the top 11 players in the entire country) or the Volleyball team who dominated the Horizon League last season or Baseball who reached the NCAA Tourney last spring.

But if we are being honest, we must recognize that men's basketball is what can turn everything around. It can support the entire department (alternatively it can be a huge drain on the department, which some protest it currently is without any non-League post-season appearances since 2006). That one program will ultimately drive our successful future, or drive us into a ditch.

Support for all sports is important, but making sure the men's basketball team is successful and maximizing fan support behind it are paramount to repairing this university's image in the world of collegiate athletics.

In addition to making sure this basketball school has a good basketball program and fan experience at basketball games, serious thought should be given to harnessing some of our unique strengths to motivate the sickeningly huge yet apathetic alumni base and fan base we have right here in the Greater Milwaukee Area (ie. making soccer games a bigger event and leveraging the advantage Milwaukee Panther Baseball has being the only D-I program in the state- and good to boot!).

Costello certainly has his work cut out for him, that is the only sure thing at this point. But he sounds very confident and very realistic about our challenges and opportunities. I would love to see him hit the ground running.

For example- he could start with a relatively easy-win by implementing a branding/image standards document and sternly but graciously requesting that media outlets and merchandisers follow it. Yes, I am talking to YOU, JOURNAL-SENTINEL SPORTS, the stubborn and lonely home of "UW-Milwaukee Panthers" coverage..

Tom Enlund (JS Panther Hoops beat reporter) is an awesome writer and you are handicapping him with a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face "policy" of refusing to acknowledge the fact that our teams are called the Milwaukee Panthers and not the "UW-Milwaukee Panthers".

The Milwaukee Panthers deserve respect at the very least from our hometown newspaper, and with Costello's help, they may get it. And while we are on easy-wins, let's consider giving the public a little more visibility into progress being made with the Master Plan. They deserve more than fancy Power-Points and enticing JS blog posts about the "Master Plan". Where is it at? What is the schedule? Has any kind of progress been made since it was announced over a year ago?

Though we play UW (doesn't that make them the UW-Madison Badgers, JS?) and MU, their commitment to Athletics is worlds apart from ours... let's hope Costello can convince the UWM Academic brass that ultimately- Athletics can only help the academic mission of being a great Midwestern urban university.

But right now, like many Panthers, I am just happy to see we now have an AD in place again and can start building our future.