For today’s post, we were fortunate enough to talk to Andy Seeley, who is the recently hired associate commissioner of the Mountain West Conference. It’s always a privilege to get an inside look at the MWC and Andy was helpful enough to give us a bit of one. We asked him a few questions about a variety of topics and you can read his answers below.
MWCConnection: Of course the initial question would be how did you get into the role you are in? I know you have been on the job for just a few months now. How did that all come about and what attracted you to the Mountain West Conference?
Seeley: “I’ve spent more than 20 years in athletics communications, also known as sports information back in the day. Having worked at numerous institutions, I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced a lot in the world of intercollegiate athletics. Working for the Mountain West was intriguing on a number of levels. I spent four years at Utah when the Utes were members of the Mountain West Conference, so I already had a familiarity with the league and this part of the world. The opportunity here was to lead an entire external group, not just specifically working in communications. So, that was very interesting to me as well. I already knew many of the people here in the conference office, so I felt comfortable with who I was working with and for. The Mountain West has always been known for innovation and competitiveness, which is also attractive. It was just the right opportunity at the right time for me.”
MWCConnection: Another simple one: What are are your responsibilities and main tasks in your role as Associate Commissioner? Can you walk us through a “typical day” in your role, if such a thing exists?
Seeley: “As mentioned before, I’m responsible for overseeing all our external units – strategic communications, social/digital and the Mountain West Network. There really is no ‘typical day.’ I think this is true for just about anyone in a similar role or in any intercollegiate athletics external role. Going all the way back to college when I was a student assistant SID at Northwest Missouri State University, that was a very attractive prospect to me. There are some regular pieces of business that we conduct, such as weekly content meetings and discussion regarding how we can help amplify the message of the MW’s member institutions, etc. From one day to the next, I may be in a meeting with external facing staff at one of our schools, working on plans for basketball media days or buying billboards to help promote the MW and our new brand initiative.”
MWCConnection: What new ideas or future vision do you have for both what you want to accomplish and what you want the MWC to accomplish in the next 3-5 years?
Seeley: “The Mountain West has always been known for innovation. I want our external staff to continue that tradition, whether it’s doing something new and different in the digital space or simply not being afraid to change up how we do things. I’ve never been a fan of ‘same as last year.’ There are no personal goals here for me. It’s simply about making sure that we continue to bring as much recognition to the MW as possible in as many ways possible … and maybe have a little fun doing it. After all, this is sports. It’s supposed to be fun.”
MWCConnection: The big talk around the MWC right now is the new media contract. How involved are you in that process? There are so many different factors to consider (short/long term, kickoff times, networks/streaming, and so on). Which ones are the MWC considering important in negotiations and how difficult was it to decide what to prioritize?
Seeley: “Media rights negotiations are often very complicated and take a long time. Planning for and working through all of that was taking place long before I got to Colorado Springs. Commissioner Thompson and Deputy Commissioner Gilliland have been very gracious to include me in a few items regarding our upcoming media rights deal. But they have been doing the heavy lifting on these things for more than 20 years now and are real experts in this area. I’d defer to what Commissioner Thompson said at Football Media Days about any specifics.”
MWCConnection: More generally, college football seems to be an ever changing landscape. Transfers seem to be the big one right now and though it’s been a few years, fans continuously wonder if conference realignment will occur in the MWC again. Have you and Craig Thompson discussed and do you have multiple plans and contingencies in the event of potential rule changes with transfers or another round of realignment?
Seeley: “Our institutions are all members of the NCAA and have votes on legislation such as transfer policies. We’re here to support them in whatever way we can. As it pertains to realignment, you’re always paying attention the landscape. Someone with decades of experience like that of Commissioner Thompson will always be up to speed on what’s taking place.”
MWCConnection: Is it difficult to balance the wants and needs of 12 different schools and 18 different sports between men and women? What helps that balance and how does the conference tend to the needs of non-revenue sports?
Seeley: “It can be interesting at times when you have many different constituencies who all face their own different challenges. But what I’ve seen since I’ve been in the MW office is a collegial group of universities, administrators, coaches and others who are always looking at what’s best for their particular institution, but also for the Mountain West. As intercollegiate athletics administrators, we always want our student-athletes to have the best possible experience they can. I’ve always come at it from the point of view of the student-athlete or coach of a particular program, no matter if it is football or women’s golf. That competition or championship event is the most important thing in their lives at that time and we should treat it as such.”
MWCConnection: You’ve been at UCF and now here in the MWC. What are the pros to working in the Group of 5? What are some of the challenges?
Seeley: “I’ve never been interested in all the classifications with regard to my work. I’ve worked in Division II and I’ve worked at schools that have played in four different conferences. My only goal has always been to do my best to make sure that those hard-working young men and women receive as much attention and credit as possible for the amazing things they do in competition, in the classroom and in the community. I would say resources. But I have colleagues and friends who are at institutions or conferences where you would think resources wouldn’t be an issue. But everyone is always looking for more, because we’re always looking for ways we can improve what we’re doing for the student-athletes. Personally, I’ve always been proud of being able to do more with less.”
MWCConnection: How does the conference balance trying to stay ahead of the curve and be innovative and creative with decisions versus following models that have worked in the past or work for other conferences? (ex. media deal, conference championship game, bowl tie-ins)
Seeley: “I’m not so sure we look at it that way. In my opinion, if you’re looking for the best way to help your membership achieve its goals, you’ll sometimes end up being innovative and maybe come up with a new, better way to do something. On the other hand, sometimes tried-and-true methods are what’s best. At the end of the day, you’re simply always striving to do the best job you can do for the membership and its student-athletes. If that’s your focus, it’s much harder to go wrong.”
MWCConnection: Speaking of bowl games, the MWC announced their new bowl games, which featured a blend of old and new tie-ins. How much work goes into securing both the main bowls and back-up bowls? How does the MWC market themselves to these bowl games? And how did you feel about the agreements you were able to get for the next round of bowls?
Seeley: “I can say without hesitation that there was a great deal of work done to put together and secure an exciting bowl lineup for the next cycle. We’re really pleased with the lineup for the next cycle. Playing a game in Los Angeles, in a brand-new, state-of-the-art stadium against the Pac-12 is going to be a really great opportunity. We’ve also got some great long-time bowl partners who we know will give MW student-athletes an incredible bowl experience. We’re very much looking forward to the 2019 season and the bowl season to follow. But we’re also excited about the 2020-25 cycle.”
MWCConnection: We can end with an easier one as well. What are you most excited for in the 2019-2020 MWC athletic season? And what is maybe a sport or team the average fan doesn’t know about that we should keep an eye on this year?
Seeley: “Personally, I’m very much looking forward to the entire year. For me, I never feel like I have a really good grasp of everything in a new role until I’ve been through a full cycle. So, I’m really just focused on continuing to learn within my role here. The MW is extremely competitive across the board on a national scale. To pick one sport or team would be doing a disservice to the rest of the league. As we speak, we’re just a few days away from competition beginning. This is my 23rd year working full-time in intercollegiate athletics and 32nd year of being around it in some capacity. It never gets old. I just can’t wait to see what 2019-20 brings for the Mountain West.”
You can follow Andy Seeley on twitter: @agseeley and be sure to follow us: @MWCConnection.