With a résumé bolstered by plenty of new construction, Ron Prettyman came to Cal Poly’s campus with an eye on upgrades, including the building where the prospective athletic director was speaking.
Among the topics Prettyman discussed in an open forum at Mott Gym were his plans for facilities upgrades, his desire to see Cal Poly football excel at the Football Championship Subdivision level before looking to move up and the department’s current staffing depth.
“Some of the facilities that we play on, if the only thing people know about Cal Poly is the athletic facilities here,” Prettyman said, “they may not come away with a great idea of what Cal Poly’s all about. And I hope I’m not offending anybody here, but this is the truth.
“I’m evaluating, and I think there’s some things we need to make Cal Poly a classy Division I program by upgrading.”
Prettyman, the current A.D. at Indiana State and a California native, finished off a two-day tour of San Luis Obispo on Thursday. The other two finalists — Portland State A.D. Torre Chisholm and San Diego State senior associate A.D. Don Oberhelman — are scheduled to arrive for interviews within the next two weeks.
Larry Kelley, Cal Poly’s Vice President for Administration and Finance and chairman of the hiring committee, said of the 50 to 60 candidates who gained serious consideration, eight were interviewed by video conference.
None declined an interview, and Prettyman, Chisholm and Oberhelman were the only three invited to campus, Kelley said.
In almost six years at Indiana State, Prettyman has overseen the design and construction of new weight training facilities, a $1.5 million video board in the basketball arena, a new baseball stadium, football stadium renovations and locker room upgrades.
During his 10-year stint as the A.D. at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Prettyman also played a role in the on-campus construction of the $200-million Home Depot Center, a 27,000-seat stadium designed specifically for soccer.
Prior to that, the Bakersfield native and graduate of Cal State Stanislaus spent 13 years as the athletic director at Vanguard, where he earned his undergraduate degree and competed in basketball and tennis.
Prettyman said he was proud to have brought the kind of change that’s taken place at Indiana State.
“The university was very stagnant when I got there,” Prettyman said. “We hadn’t done anything with facilities for 20 years, literally zero. I will say that I’ve had, in the last three years, a terrific president that sees the value of a quality athletics department serving a quality university, kind of the front-door idea.
“I didn’t find all the money, but I did find a lot of the money, and we cultivated donors and we cultivated alumni. And we got it done. Regardless of how we got it done, we got a bunch of new buildings in our athletic department. That’s something I’m very proud of, and it’s something we made a big dent in since I got there six years ago.”
At Cal Poly, supporters have been clamoring for completion to the renovation of Alex G. Spanos Stadium that began with the opening of a new west side in 2006. Locker room and weight training facilities are also outdated, as is Mott Gym, which was built in 1960 and now seats 3,062 for basketball, volleyball and wrestling matches.
Prettyman specifically mentioned adding a splash of green to Mott Gym and eventually building a whole new multi-use basketball arena.
As for speculation about Mustangs football remaining a candidate to move to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Western Athletic Conference in the near future, Prettyman was staunch in his support of the playoff system in the FCS.
“I’m committed to this level of football at this point,” he said. “Who knows what’s going to happen at Cal Poly? We decide to blow out all the doors and end up with a student body of 25-30,000 somewhere down the road, we might look at going to another level, but right now, we need to be successful at this level. And if we can be successful at this level, then we can have other conversations.”
Though a California resident for most of his life, Prettyman did maintain a fondness for his current job.
One reason could be the contrast in economic climate between the two states. Though the overall economy has been in the doldrums nationwide, Prettyman said, Indiana State has not had the volume of cutbacks facing the CSU system.
Other than facilities, Cal Poly’s low level of athletic department staffing was another area Prettyman would like to see addressed.
Though budget cuts aren’t congruous with the idea of adding support staff, Prettyman appeared confident it could happen.
“This job really doesn’t worry me or scare me,” he said. “I think there are great challenges ahead, but I think that they’re things that we can deal with.
“If we can weather the storm for the next two or three years, I really think things are going to start turning in the right direction, and even if they don’t, people are going to be able to trust Cal Poly and Cal Poly athletics.”