BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE: New Hog Foundation Hire Has Had Whirlwind Year

Pick a job within the Arkansas athletic department and there's a chance Dr. Sean Rochelle has held it.

Named last month as an associate director for the Razorback Foundation, Rochelle seems to have done it all for the Razorbacks. He's worked in development. He's acted as an academic counselor. Rochelle also served as a graduate assistant football coach under former Razorback coach Ken Hatfield.

It was nearly three years ago that Rochelle, an Elkins native and a former star quarterback at Arkansas-Monticello, returned to Northwest Arkansas for what he hopes is for good. Rochelle previously served five years at Asuza Pacific where he chaired the department of exercise and sport science, among other things.

Rochelle came back to serve as the director of development for Lady Razorback athletics. When the men's and women's athletic operations were merged by Jeff Long earlier this year, Rochelle took on the fund-raising role for the entire department.

Highly decorated as an academic and athlete, Rochelle was twice an all-American quarterback at UAM. He went on to earn his master's degree at Arkansas in 1989 and returned to get his doctorate in 1999.

These days Rochelle, who lives in Elkins with his wife, Caroline, and daughters, Abigail and Ellison, is focusing his attention on the Razorback Foundation. He assumed a position with the athletic department's private fund-raising arm in November.

Rochelle moved into associate director's role when Chuck Dicus was removed as Foundation president. Harold Horton was then promoted by the Foundation board to be the executive director, opening a spot for Rochelle.

Read on to find out why Rochelle has The Best Seat in the House:

AS360: You've got a great story. You were working in development for women's athletics this time last year, took over that role for the entire athletic department when they combined and now are part of the Razorback Foundation. That's a pretty good year, huh?

Rochelle: That was quite a whirlwind sequence of events. Like anything else, I think a lot of it comes down to timing. You can't predict the timing or the opportunity. I feel really blessed to be down here. As a kid growing up outside of Fayetteville, Arkansas, as a young man who was a graduate assistant coach and came back to work in academic support for athletics, to be involved in any way is a privilege. I mean that sincerely. I try to remind myself every day, "Hey. You work for Razorback athletics." It fires you up to go anywhere in the state and share stories and experiences. For me, every step along this way has been a dream come true. A lot of things can happen when you're in the right place at the right time and you work hard.

I would not be down here if Jeff Long had not given me an opportunity. He afforded me some great opportunities, but even with that, if it wasn't for [executive director Harold] Horton and the [Foundation] board offering me the opportunity, I still wouldn't be down here [in the Razorback Foundation offices]. So I have great appreciation for Coach Horton showing confidence in me. There are a lot of people who would like to be down here. I'm fired up and thankful to be here. I don't take it for granted.

Some folks seem to be a bit leery of new athletic director Jeff Long because he isn't a Southerner. You worked for a time in California [at Azusa Pacific]. Can you relate at all to what Long is going through?

I do kind of empathize with Jeff on a lot of that. I challenge anybody who has ever left Arkansas; if you ever left the South, think of the perception of Arkansans that is out there. It's a perception that we don't appreciate. It's a motivating factor to make sure you represent the state well. Hey, Arkansas is a beautiful state. We've got incredible people. We've got great resources. We're deserving of better sometimes than the perception that people have of us. That word "perception" is important. Certainly on the West Coast there are perceptions of being an Arkansan. So, yes. I empathize with that. ... People say perception is reality. Sometimes perception doesn't really have a lot of substance. I wish people would think about that before they rush to judgment.

You've served in a lot of different roles within the scope of an athletic department. Is there a common thread to it all? How do all the different jobs relate?

I love to see us win, but more than that, I love to see young people reach their potential. It's nice when you get a call from [a former athlete] who has a real, professional job that they are proud of and a family. They can look back that they wanted to play in the NFL, but getting that degree and education was important. When you see that, when you get that kind of phone call, it's hard to beat.

There is a lot of talk about the Foundation needing to be more "transparent." What does that mean to you?

I hear that from people that support the Razorbacks and the Razorback Foundation. What I take from the word "transparency" or any other word you want to use, people desire, if they are giving money, they want to know what it's being used for and if it's making an impact. I think they want consistent answers. Whatever the question might be, when they call, they want consistent answers to what is going on. I believe that if people feel informed, if they feel informed, even if they don't agree it creates respect and trust. You can have a lot of disagreements, but still have respect and trust for one another. Are we informing people of what we're doing? Are we being great stewards with their resources? That's a phrase I use a lot. When I talk to somebody about supporting Razorback athletics, I want them to know that we're going to be great stewards with what they give us. That's not a reflection of what's happened here in the past. That's just me talking about what I want as we move forward. ... We want to be in the business of effective communication.

What is the key to growing the Razorback Foundation? How do you build on what's in place?

Again, we have to be effective communicators. We have to let them know that we need them. We have to let them know why this opportunity would serve them well. People take pride in supporting the Razorback Foundation and hence the athletic department. ... And like any organization, members are what drive it. Think about what would happen if half our members got one member [to join]. Think about that. Razorback fans know each other. They know who cares enough to join.

Complete this sentence. "I have the best seat in the house because..."

Can you imagine coming to work everyday with Coach [Frank] Broyles, Coach [Norm] DeBriyn and Coach [Harold] Horton? Do you know what kind of relationships those three have? You can't pay for a better resource. You can't pay for a better resource than those three in the Razorback Foundation with the relationships they've built. So for me to have an opportunity to learn from them and help meet people through them, it's priceless. You can't hire somebody with that. You can't research that. I get to walk into it and be a part of it. It doesn't get much better than that right there. There's no book you can buy with the stories I get to hear every day about the players, the coaches and the Razorback Foundation members who have been with Arkansas for decades. I don't think you can pay for that opportunity.