CONVERSATION | William S. Husak joined LMU in 1998 as director of intercollegiate athletics. His 20-year tenure has been the most prolific in LMU athletics history as Husak has focused on winning championships and achieving success by graduating all student-athletes in four years. Husak has a long and accomplished background as an administrator, fundraiser and professor, including 19 years at Cal State Long Beach. As an associate professor of physical education at CSULB, from 1979-86, he established the university’s Motor Behavior Laboratory. A 1972 graduate of State University of New York at Cortland, Husak holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physical education from Texas A&M University. He talked with LMU This Week about his work.
LMU This Week: What’s your proudest accomplishment as LMU’s athletic director?
Bill Husak: That is a difficult question to answer, so let me list three. The first is the support that we have put into the program for our student-athletes. This has included adding to our sports medicine staff and creating our Strength/Conditioning as well as our Student Athlete Services programs, which were non-existent 20 years ago. In conjunction with that was creating and filling coaching positions that are full time.
Secondly, I’ve been proud of the vision for facility growth and making that growth a reality. This has allowed us to recruit both athletes and coaches, which enhances our competitive profile and winning championships.
Finally, it is the academic success our program has enjoyed. LMU has high academic standards and expectations. Recruiting and supporting student-athletes who want and are capable of earning their degrees has always been a priority, and our success is apparent every year in the statistical information we gather. I guess I have to add one more: We have achieved and accomplished in an environment of playing by the rules and conducting our business with integrity.
LTW: LMU’s Athletics Department is highly regarded for keeping the student-athletes’ welfare foremost in recruiting, coaching and competing; what do you do to maintain that level of care?
BH: We listen to our athletes. We follow national trends. We evaluate our resources to provide the very best care for our athletes. And we try and take advantage of the resources the university has to offer.
LTW: With a mind on filling seats at our events, how is the Athletics Department engaging with our community beyond LMU? Not just in Westchester, but Playa Vista, Culver City, etc.?
BH: This past year we re-organized our department and created a position of associate athletics director for community engagement. Mike Harris and his staff are charged with bringing people to campus with a focus on a seven-mile radius of LMU. We especially work hard on youth groups. Studies have shown that by the age of 7, a child already has an affiliation with a university that can last a lifetime. We want that affiliation to be LMU for the children who live in this 7-mile radius. An example of this effort is a Thursday noon women’s basketball game we scheduled and brought in 3,500 elementary school students to cheer the Lions on. We also focus on this 7-mile radius because it is getting increasingly difficult for fans to travel to the campus because of traffic congestion in Southern California. The university, and especially the Marketing and Communications team, has helped us to get the word out. The athletics banners along Lincoln Boulevard and in Silicon Beach are great examples of the university and athletics partnership.
LTW: What is the most fun part of your job?
BH: The most fun part of my job is the day-to-day effort that my staff and the people at LMU have put forward in helping our student-athletes grow and be successful. Education in general, and athletics in particular, require people who view their efforts at LMU in a vocational sense rather than a job. It is selfless work that can’t be defined by 8 to 5, five days a week. It is 24/7/365 and has to be a way of life. In our Athletics Department, that is the trait of most and it makes it a fun environment to work in because the focus is not on ourselves, but on our student-athletes.
LTW: Is there one defining moment during your tenure?
BH: Yes, the day the boathouse sank, approximately one month into my LMU tenure.* Through so many people’s efforts – university, athletics, alums – we were able to rebuild and name the Jane Browne Bove Boathouse. It was literally a phoenix rising from the ashes and the experience for all since that day has been better. That experience has been the blueprint for what we have attempted to achieve in every sport and area within the department.
LTW: What’s the next big project for the Athletics Department?
BH: Athletics has never been a focal point of a campaign at LMU; we will be for the next one. The major piece is an addition and renovation to Gersten Pavilion. If we really want to be successful in our indoor court sports, we need to pay attention to this facility and make it on a par with others in the WCC.
* “At approximately 7 a.m. on Aug. 14, 1998, the floating boathouse of Loyola Marymount University in Marina del Rey, California, sank without warning. All of the university’s shells, chase boats, oars, ergs, and other training equipment, along with more than 30 years of university team memorabilia was damaged or completely destroyed,” reported the Rowing Service, a rowing information warehouse.