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Episode 040 – Great Northwest Athletic Conference Commissioner Dave Haglund

Posted on Feb 16, 2017 by in Podcast Episode | 0 comments


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Dave talks Maryland hoops, the future of sports information work in a SnapChat world, and how to foster an ideas driven office culture.



Hey everyone and welcome to the All-Star Leader Podcast, where together we learn about leadership from the best and brightest, and keep it fun by connecting it to our passion for sports!

I’m your host Daniel Hare, and today we are talking with the Commissioner of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, Dave Haglund. Dave is in his fifth year at the GNAC after serving in the same role at the Cascade Collegiate Conference, and prior to that spent a combined 27 years in media relations at the University of Maryland and Fresno State University.

This is Dave Haglund. Dave thanks so much for coming on the show!

Interview Questions:

  1. So I don’t think we’ve talked about this before, but if my timing is right I was on the basketball staff at Oklahoma and you were at Maryland when we played in 2001 in Cole Fieldhouse. Maryland won in a very good, rare out-of-conference February game. What do you remember about that one?!
    1. First year Maryland went to the Final Four; Juan Dixon was scoreless in the first half, changed shoes and led
  2. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s start at the beginning. You grew up in Portland; so you’re back in your hometown. What was it like growing up there and what were some of your early interactions with the sports world?
    1. Grew up an Oregon State fan; Portland Timbers were big and he went to some of those playoff games; and then Trailblazers were big as well
    2. Always devoured the sports page; after high school got a sports clerk job at a local newspaper The Oregon Journal which launched his career
  3. You went to Oregon State for college; what was that experience like and how did it move you closer to the career you ultimately decided on?
    1. The ability to make connections were big, which led to more opportunities; Oregon Journal editor called the Oregon State SID and helped Dave get a job there as a student
    2. Big round table in the Oregon State SID room where Dave worked; and Ralph Miller (OSU men’s basketball coach) would use that table and Dave’s chair to talk to the media after games
  4. How did you wind up at Fresno State? Who had an impact on you during your time there and how? What did you learn from a leadership standpoint during your time at Fresno State that still impacts you today.
    1. Scott Johnson was assistant SID at Oregon State and got hired at Fresno State as the head SID; offered Dave a job, and he had a job from Oregon State upon graduation as well
    2. Three coaches: men’s soccer coach Jose Elgorriaga helped him with his confidence; baseball coach Bob Bennett taught him hard work and standing up for your program; football coach Jim Sweeney too.
  5. You were at Fresno for a couple of years of Jerry Tarkanian. What can you share about him and his leadership style?
    1. Enjoyed working with Tark; easy to work with
    2. He was a celebrity coach, and he returned to Fresno which was his hometown after a long, stellar career
    3. As a PR person, having someone the media wanted to talk to all the time was great for the job and career
    4. There was always controversy that followed him and his program that you had to deal with
  6. What drew you to Maryland? Same question: Who had an impact on you during your time there and how? What did you learn from a leadership standpoint during your time at Fresno State that still impacts you today.
    1. Leap of faith to move to a new part of the country and a new conference, etc.
    2. Hired Ralph Friedgen and went to an Orange Bowl
    3. Back to back final fours and a national championship in 2002
  7. As a media relations professional, what were the benefits and challenges of being in the massive media market of Washington, D.C.?
    1. Number one benefit was the exposure because of the number of media outlets that were covering you
    2. When men’s basketball went to the NCAA Tournament, they would take 80 media members along with them
    3. Always in the public eye; USA Today, CNN, PBS are right there, so anything a national sports news issue arose, those outlets would want to interview Maryland athletics’ staff
  8. Let’s pause here and drill down on your area of expertise for a moment. Where do you think the traditional area of media relations/sports information is going in the age of SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook?
    1. Wishes he was an SID with all the new media
    2. Athletic departments and coaches can communicate directly with their fans; this is a great thing!
    3. Create your own content in different forms and deliver it, and not need the media
    4. Balance between the old and new; the old doesn’t totally go away; example is the hardcopy media guides are now gone
  9. You left Maryland to take the Commissioner position at the Cascade Conference. Can you talk a little about the motivations behind that move out of major Division I athletics and also out of media relations? Who are a few of the Cascade schools so our audience has some frame of reference?
    1. Always thought the Maryland time was temporary and would want to go back home
    2. Took a risk by leaving Division I and taking on a commissioner role of an NAIA league
    3. Was a one-man band and worked out of his home
    4. Was able to bring several national championships to the Portland area
    5. 11 institutions in three states: Oregon, Washington and Idaho; supportive presidents and good ADs; Oregon Tech won the men’s basketball national championship
    6. (Daniel asks about future of NAIA) – they have lost 50+ schools to NCAA Division II in recent years but this has slowed; and Dave thinks there is a place for the NAIA; they are at 240 or 250 schools right now.
  10. Then we stole you away at the GNAC in 2011; talk about taking over that role and some of the challenges you’ve faced.
    1. The vast footprint: Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska; plus Canada; there’s a lot of travel and air travel
    2. There was only one postseason championship at the time, and he added baseball, softball and soccer
    3. Small college football in the west is very challenging; there just aren’t many schools playing; GNAC has five members and plays a double round robin
    4. Next year, men’s women’s basketball championship will be in Alaska this year
    5. The air/long-trip leagues are financially challenging because it really is a cost of living increase to compete at the same level
  11. Something I like to ask all our guests who have worked in conference offices: how do you go about getting individual schools to put their own best interest aside for the greater good of the conference? (if at all?!)
    1. Teamwork; everyone matters
    2. ADs have an understanding of what it takes to make the conference work; they are collegial and know there are times when what’s good for the group might not be good for them as an individual school, and they are okay with that.
  12. Audience question from John Owen: How do you communicate so your team feels welcome to talk to you and bring new ideas? (from email list
    1. Keep an open door; pop into people’s offices and shoot the breeze; when you’re relaxed and talking about what’s going on, new ideas will come that are worthy
  13. Five rapid fire questions
    1. Name one trait or characteristic you look for when you hire someone.
      1. Work ethic and desire
    2. What habit has been key to your success?
      1. Underpromise and overdeliver
    3. Most important app or productivity tool?
      1. iPhone and Dropbox
    4. Most influential leader you’ve personally been around?
      1. Debbie Yow (N.C. State AD)
    5. One sentence of advice for emerging leaders?
      1. Don’t remain in your comfort zone too long.
  14. GNAC happenings
    1. Four final fours in 2016; three teams reached the national championship; Western Washington won the women’s soccer national championship
    2. Women in Sports Career Seminar – Saturday, April 8th, Portland (3rd annual)
      1. 10-15 panelists of women working in sports industry
      2. Open to high school/college students interested in pursuing a career in sports
      3. WOU Director of Sports Performance Cori Metzgar (Episode 3 guest) has been a panelist
    3. @davehaglundgnac on Twitter; @gnacsports

Thank Yous/Acknowledgements:

  1. Antioch Live/Clear Day Media Groupmusic
    1. More here.
  2. Jonathan Davis – production
  3. Clint Musslewhite voice over

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