New UND President Andrew Armacost sat down with members of the Herald earlier this week to comment on a wide range of topics including athletics.
Here are five important athletics questions and Armacost's answers:
Q. What's your philosophy on the merits of athletics at a university like UND?
A. As a former Division I athlete myself, I have a fond place in my heart for the role of sports programs in terms of developing future leaders. This was reinforced by my life at the Air Force, which places a premium on athletic development.
I see the same thing at UND; the sports programs are integral to what we do as a university for several reasons. The first is it's a great visual marker about a great university. Sometimes people learn about academic programs because of national exposure due to the success of the sports teams.
I think, also, sports provide a rallying cry for the members of the campus. It's a morale builder, particularly when the teams are doing well. And so it's an aspect of college life that I think really rallies a campus and binds that campus together to build a sense of community.
And then the third element is that I've seen tremendous transformation of student athletes who go through both a rigorous academic program and a rigorous athletic program. And together, I think the leadership skills, the teamwork skills, the things that we talked about earlier about what makes an effective academic program, those concepts are reinforced and developed to a great degree on the sports teams, as well. So I see great synergy between what we're trying to do on the academic side and also on the athletic side.
Q. How do you view your role in terms of fundraising assistance?
A. I think with regard to fundraising in general, it's a major function of the university president, and I will embrace that role and take an active role for fundraising, whether it's for athletics, academics or other needs on campus. So I'll certainly work closely with the athletic director on athletic fundraising, but I view myself as a key driver in making that type of philanthropy happen.
Q. Is your relationship with donor Kris Engelstad McGarry and the Engelstad Family Foundation important to you?
A. It was literally one of the first phone calls I made in December after being appointed as president was to Kris McGarry, who runs the Engelstad Family Foundation and is the daughter of Ralph Engelstad. We had a 5-to-10 minute conversation.
The sole reason was not to ask her for anything but just to introduce myself and to say I look forward to working with her in the future. When she visits, she's anticipating a visit to campus sometimes this spring ... hopefully our schedules line up or I'm on campus at the same time she is and we have a chance to grab coffee or to sit down and discuss each other and our perspective more in detail.
But the initial conversation was just to say hello and to introduce myself to her. I fully appreciate what I read and the news reports anyway last April just about the tension between the university and the Engelstad family. And this is an area, just like (interim president Joshua Wynne) has done, that relationship has mattered to the university, and it's one that we're getting back on track.
Q. Have you had a chance to look closely at athletics' future master plan, specifically High Performance Center Phase 2?
A. I meet with (UND athletic director Bill Chaves) later (Tuesday) morning. We're actually talking about the master plan. I haven't dug in to the details yet.
Q. Have you toured UND's Memorial Stadium, the current home for football coaching offices and locker rooms?
A. That tour will happen (Tuesday), but I've heard a lot about it. I'll see how my own visual understanding and of the stories I've heard match up.
I do know the importance of having top-notch athletic facilities for several reasons. One is to attract top scholar athletes. Two, to give them a place where they can be proud of and give the the benefits that human beings need to perform at their highest level. And so, I'll be eager to see what the current "as is" condition of the facilities are versus where we think we need to go. HPC2 plays a huge role in that.