Todd Phelps has been hired as the Deputy Director of Athletics at North Dakota State and will lead facilities and capital projects. He’s also a Boston sports fan, former basketball player and a standup guy. Here’s our first sit down with one of Tom Brady’s biggest supporters.
Bison Illustrated: You spent the early part of your career in the Ivy League. What are some differences at that level compared to the one NDSU is at?
Todd Phelps: “If the NCAA manual is two inches thick, the Ivy League manual is four inches thick as far as NCAA regulations and all that stuff. There are no scholarships. The student athletes are there because they got into the university. … I have the utmost respect for the Ivy League student- athletes that I encounter because you’re competing at the division I level, you’re at the highest level of athletics, and you are certainly at the highest level of academics. I give them a lot of credit. But there are a lot of regulations on things. Seasons are much shorter. They’re all dictated by the Ivy League, football plays 10 games and their season is over. You win the Ivy League Championship, that’s your crowning moment; that’s it.”
BI: Is it freeing for you to be at a place where athletics is the front porch of the university?
TP: “It is, in some ways. And again, I understand the Ivy League. I get why they are the way they are and why they do what they do because of who they are, and the history and the tradition and those types of things. You go to Stony Brook, it’s the same thing, we use that term all the time, the front porch. It’s funny because then you go to Oregon State, the same thing. Athletics can be the front porch to universities and there are a lot of times where they’d bring in a lot of revenue and a lot of times will put your brand out there nationally.”
BI: What did you know about the NDSU brand?
TP: “If you’re in athletics at all, especially college athletics, you have a pretty good grasp of who is out there and obviously the tradition of what’s been going on here for the last bunch of years. … These are conversations that I was having with Matt (Larsen) when he was getting involved in this job. I said, Matt, ‘Look at what they’re doing. Take football out of it. Look at all the other programs and the success they’re having.’ My wife and I drove down and met up with Matt with the softball team in Eugene because they were in the Oregon region and it’s 40 minutes down the road from Oregon State. I met Darren (Mueller) when I came out. My first weekend at Oregon State, North Dakota State and Coach Brown’s got the baseball team in the Corvallis regional. That was my first weekend on the job at Oregon State, dealing with the regional. You take that and you look at all the other programs and obviously we want to support the rest and just rise up to that. You know I’m coming along for the ride.”
BI: What was it like working with Matt Larsen for six years at Stony Brook?
TP: “I told a lot of people when I left Stony Brook and when Matt was getting this job that if you ever have the opportunity to work for Matt Larsen, you have to do it. Matt is the ultimate professional; he is great in this business. He has a lot of respect across the board. He does things the right way. There are no short cuts, there’s no cutting corners, he wants to do everything the right way and he just carries himself as the utmost professional and that’s why I enjoy working for him. … He values people’s opinions and he and I, we didn’t have reporting lines to each other at Stony Brook. He was the CFO and handled a lot of that stuff and I was doing a lot of the facilities and operations stuff, but we had a lot of crossover and we just hit it off. We have a lot of the same philosophies in the way we go about our business.”
BI: What made NDSU so attractive to you?
TP: “For me, it’s a great opportunity and it’s the next great opportunity in my career. I’ve been at every single level of college athletics from Division III, to Ivy League, FCS, to scholarship FCS to the FBS, now coming full circle and coming back. My career path has always been kind of in the facilities and operations world and I will be doing a lot of that here as well, but this was an opportunity for me to A, come to a great university and the opportunity with the job, and also to be able to work with Matt again.”
BI: Have you had a chance to take a tour of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex?
TP: “I was over there when I came on campus to interview at the end of May. … It’s going to be a tremendous complex. Again, for this level of college athletics in Division I, it encompasses so many things that are just vital to what we do day in and day out and it’s going to be a great facility for all our student-athletes, coaches and administration. Matt and I have actually spent time mapping out where things should go, who should go where and stuff.”
BI: What’s your overall goal while at NDSU?
TP: “I want to assist Matt and the rest of our administration and the rest of our university on continuing the success that the program has had and the university has and just keep building and growing in a first-class way. Continuing to support our coaches and our student- athletes to give them the best experience. As an administrator that’s what you’re here to do. Certainly, you can get into the nuts and bolts of wanting to see the SHAC get done and you want to see it done in a great way and people come in and enjoy it from the fans, the community, the alumni and the donors.”[/text_output]
[image type=”none” float=”none” link=”true” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3807″ alt=”Todd Phelps take on Boston-related sports.”]