Aug. 23, 2012
STANFORD, Calif.- On July 27th, 2012, Bernard Muir was named The Jacquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics at Stanford University. Married and a father of two daughters, he comes from the University of Delaware, where he had held a similar position since 2009.
Prior to that, Muir was athletic director at Georgetown University from 2005-09.
This week, he sat down with Mark Soltau to discuss his new job. Although he has been in his role less than two weeks, the affable, engaging and easy-going Muir is excited to be on the Farm and eager to help lead Stanford Athletics into the future.
Q: What are your first impressions of Stanford?
A: It has been a little overwhelming in the mere fact that there are so many faces and names that I am trying to remember and get a handle on the particulars that people are working in and what they are involved with. By the same token, I'm really impressed by the quality of people and how dedicated they are to their job, and really just wanting to see Stanford do well. Coming from the outside looking in, you just think of Stanford and you think of a place that really strikes the appropriate balance between academics and athletics. I'm just blown away by meeting the student-athletes themselves and being around some of our coaches. Now I'm a part of it, which is great.
Q: Do you have any specific goals?
A: The one thing I said to the search committee and to our staff when I was first introduced is I'm thrilled now that I have the opportunity to lead, but it's really important for me to listen and really get an understanding of the culture and tenor of the place. And so that's what I'm committed to doing. It's not like I have a set agenda and say, `This is how we're going to execute it.' It's really a matter of just listening and understanding that this is a well-run machine and I just want to be able to enhance it and hopefully contribute to it to better serve our student-athletes.
Q: What intrigues you about this job?
A: I wake up and I pinch myself; I'm the athletic director at Stanford. Just the opportunity to be successful at a high level in so many platforms. Certainly there is a storied history with the 18 Directors' Cups. I want to continue to maintain that progression, but at the same time, I know that people are hungry for more and there are ways that we can have even greater excellence. Can you imagine what that could be like if we could do that across the board? That's what we are committed to doing, trying to figure out better ways to serve our student-athletes, coaches and community. If we can do that, we're really going to strike a proper balance.
Q: Any surprises?
A: Coming from the places I've been, I've just been struck by the beauty and the weather. Just how beautiful this campus is and its environment. I just wish I had the opportunity to experience it much earlier. I am truly struck by the opportunity of a student to come here, get a great education, and then I would think they would want to stay involved. Of the few alums I have met, you can tell they are pretty passionate being a Cardinal. And they have done it at a high level.
Q: Have you talked to previous athletic director Bob Bowlsby? If so, did he have any advice?
A: Bob and I have been playing phone tag the last week or so. I wanted to wait until he came back from the Olympics to visit, so we haven't had a chance to talk. I know Bob from my NCAA days and I think very highly of him. I know he operated a top program here, and I just want to carry the torch.
Q: What are your biggest challenges?
A: Not only trying to maintain the excellence that we've had, but then build on that. Even when the landscape continues to get more competitive, the resources continue to grow. I know that many alums will say, `Boy, we have ample resources.' But when you look across 35 sports, there's not a coach here that I've met that said I have enough. They're all looking for a little bit more, a little bit extra. The biggest challenge will be to maintain that and grow our resource to continue the pace that we excel.
Q: What has impressed you the most?
A: The amount of resource that comes in from the Buck/Cardinal Club and what the DAPER Investment Group has been able to do. I am blown away by those numbers, but at the same time, I realize that those numbers need to continue to grow and we need to continue to engage and steward our alumni and friends, because that's going to critical to our success for the future. While I am overwhelmed by that support, I just know that we need to cultivate it going forward.
Q: You played basketball at Brown University. What kind of a player were you?
A: I wasn't a star by any means, but I was a co-captain my senior year. I was more of a defender and didn't score a lot of points. I gave up quite a few fouls along the way. I really had a great experience and some of those teammates are still great friends to this day. I've heard from a lot of them since I've taken the position here. We have fond memories of coming out here during my freshman or sophomore year when we played in the Apple Invitational. I remember Todd Lichti just going off on us and scoring a lot of points and had incredible dunks. But at the same time, we turned it around and ended up beating Texas. Probably one of our best wins during my career.
Q: Did you have any favorite teams or athletes growing up?
A: I was a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Even though I was in Gainesville, Fla., I liked their winning and excellence when Chuck Knoll was their coach. Through a close friend of the family, I got a chance to visit with Art Monk, so I'd always follow his career. Solid guy, very quiet, and just went about his business. You talk about role models, I'd put him in that category.
Q: Stanford had a big presence at the Olympic Games in London. Were you able to watch any of the current or former student-athletes compete?
A: I was able to watch a little bit. It was during my process of being announced, and then going back and getting my family ready to move. So I was only able to catch some highlights. But obviously, I was struck by the level of excellence on the high stage by Stanford student-athletes. That was just tremendous. Looking forward over time to meeting some of them.
Q: The football team has had great success the last two years, reaching BCS games. How important is it to keep the program competing at a high level?
A: I would say all 35 sports are important to keep rolling at a high level. There's that expectation that I feel just interacting with alums and each constituency that holds their sport near and dear to their heart. They want excellence across the board, and certainly football falls right into that category. In visiting with coach (David) Shaw, it sounds like we are positioned well to have greater success. Obviously, I'm going to keep my eye on trying to help him navigate through one of the top conferences in the country. We've got some difficult challenges ahead, but I think we're up for it.
Q: Who have been the biggest influences in your life?
A: Obviously, I start with my parents. They were the one's who were the most instrumental in making sure I kept my eye on the ball. Once I got to Brown, John Perry, who was the athletic director at the time, I went to him my first days on campus, and he provided me with an internship on campus one summer. When I graduated, he became the athletic director at Butler University. He asked me what I was doing, and typical senior response, I said, `Not sure.' He said why don't you come out to Butler and do an internship there. A few stops later, I ended up working for the NCAA on the Final Four and Tom Jernstedt was my boss, and Bill Hancock, who heads up the BCS, was my immediate boss. Those people have been very influential and I consider them mentors. And then I knew I'd eventually have to get back on a campus. To have Kevin White call from Notre Dame - he's another mentor - put me in a position to become an athletic director. If it were not for them, I wouldn't be in this position.
Q: Last week, you conducted an interview for a coaching position by walking around campus. Have you always done that?
A: I was just struck by how beautiful this weather is. And the more I can get out and just experience this campus - I was outside just before that meeting and thought, `I want to stay out here.' What better way to do that than having the talk outside. When I can, I'll do a lot of my work outside. It gets my mind at ease.
Q: Where would you like to be in 10 years?
A: Right here, just doing something more creative with our programs and hopefully enhancing the overall experiences of our student-athletes. My hope is that we can be doing something much greater and celebrating the 28th Directors' Cup.
- by Mark Soltau