Bev Lewis: Continues to Take On More Duties in UA Athletics

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Mar. 29, 2010 12:00 am  

From where you sit, what is the No. 1 challenge facing the department now?
I don't know that you can say there is a No. 1 thing. Some of that you'd have to get from Jeff and see what he says the direction is. I'd think, across the board, we are trying to give our student-athletes a great experience in all aspects. We're looking out for their health and safety all the way. We're trying to make sure our coaches have the resources to be nationally competitive. That's what we're doing with our facilities master plan and the broad scope of what we need to do to be competitive in the best conference in the country. You're looking at the total student-athlete experience and working to build a program the state of Arkansas can be proud of.

Getting gymnastics to the UA was something you were very involved in eight years ago. How gratifying is it to see the national success the program has had in such a relatively short period of time?
It's fun. Probably, as I look at my career here, the most fun I've had is adding golf and softball and volleyball and gymnastics to the program. I felt like the SEC was the best gymnastics program in the country. We had local interest with a number of clubs in the area. I felt like there was interest and if we found the right coaches we could jump in and be nationally competitive. You really had to have the right coaches and the facility. We were fortunate enough to build this facility.

It starts with the coaches. Hiring Mark and Rene [Cook], we got two coaches from Stanford that wanted to compete with the best and put their own footprint on the program. They had very specific goals. Then, getting the donation from [Bob and Marilyn Bogle] and raising [$6.1 million] for this [gymnastics] facility and letting the coaches design what we feel is the best facility in the country. The coaches, the facility and the conference are the best in the country. That is appealing to athletes.

It sounds like that was a rewarding process for you. What do you consider the most rewarding part of working in athletics?
For me, I enjoy the coaches and student-athletes having success: being a part of seeing a record fall, a top five finish, a Final Four. Being a part of athletic success is probably why we got into the business of athletics to begin with.

Is it still that simple? The money, the stress, the priorities seem to have shifted. This is big business now, so is the thrill of the game still really there?
You still are touched by great accomplishments and achievements. I'm still touched by what student-athletes do, just the energy that student-athletes have. It is all so new to them. That rubs off.

Does the emphasis on Title IX compliance change at all now that two separate departments have been combined? How has that eased or burdened the process?
It's a lot easier now. It's gotten a whole lot easier. When you have two organizations and you're trying to compare budgets, you're not counting things the same. Yeah, It's a lot easier now. I think it makes it easier. We've always done a very good job at Arkansas of being out front. We added sports when we felt it was necessary to provide more opportunities. We've made sure that we're doing a master plan, and we're looking at what we can do for soccer at the same time we're looking at football and women's basketball and men's basketball. I think it makes it easier. You're moving together instead of one moving and one reacting.

Title IX is there for the student-athletes, primarily. How does Title IX impact decisions that are made on a coaching or administrative level?
I wouldn't say it does if you're looking at quotas and that sort of thing, but it's more of looking at coaching salaries, making sure they are equitable, male-female. What are you providing male-female student-athletes?

With coaching salaries, you take lots of things into consideration - be it the marketplace, the revenue generated by a sport. Is the job similar? I think there is an understanding that men's and women's basketball are different, but should men's and women's tennis be different? I think that's how you look at it.

This Arkansas Business issue is all about "Women of Influence." What does that phrase mean to you?
I think of someone that's been blessed with an opportunity to influence a lot of people, work with people and hopefully make their lives better. I think people that influence others have typically been blessed with a leadership opportunity and hopefully have a chance to mentor others and give people a good experience.

Who fits that role in your life?
When I think of it in my life, two people come to mind. And these aren't in the traditional business sense, but one would be my mom. I think she taught me not only faith in God, but believing you can do anything you want. She is someone who led by example. She was always putting others before herself. She would never say a bad word about anybody. Everything that came out of her mouth was encouraging and building up. That was a wonderful thing for me at any age. A recent example would be Marilyn Bogle. She has just been full of grace. She also thinks of other people first. Her family comes first. She's always looking for how to do things for other people. That's an example of someone who looks beyond herself into what they can do for others. Those are the people who influence. I don't think of it as "Who do you oversee?," but "What can you do for others? What lives can you touch?"

Finish this sentence - Bev Lewis has the Best Seat in the House because ...
I consider it an opportunity to be around coaches and student-athletes. It's a great opportunity to have an impact in their lives and in shaping the direction of the program. Working in athletics has never felt like a job. I think it's been fun. It's not an area you work in if you don't have a passion. It's an emotional, highly charged environment, which makes it a great experience. It will never be a dull job. 

 

 

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