by Megan Murray
With one full school year under his belt, Athletic Director Josh Brooks opens up about his experiences in year one and what is still to come for the Millsaps Majors athletic program.
The Purple & White: Why did you decide to accept the athletic director position at Millsaps?
Josh Brooks: It was in 2007 when the Saints had training camp here, and I was working at Louisiana-Monroe. We came to watch a practice and that was my first time stepping foot on campus. It opened up my eyes to Millsaps and made it a place that I thought was really neat and special, and I wanted to learn more about. Growing up in south Louisiana, I had friends that went to school here… and I always heard great things about it. From that visit the day with the Saints, it opened my eyes even more and [Millsaps] stayed on my radar as a place I would like to work one day. So I interviewed here and I had this vision in my head of what I thought it was. As I interviewed with everyone, it fit exactly what I was hoping and what I thought it would be—the progressive attitude, the innovative mentality, the tone that Dr. Pearigen set on this campus that we can be aggressive, take chances, think outside the box is what ultimately drove me here. It is such a warm and welcoming place as well.
P&W: What do you see as your main contribution in your first year?
JB: I think the biggest [difference] is the school having a full time AD in this position. The job that Coach Wise had for eight years— trying to work two acts as AD and men’s basketball coach, that is so difficult… There are so many things that come up in a day, so many small fires that you have to put out every day as an AD that if you’re trying to coach a sport and do that as well… you could spend all your time just putting out small fires and running the day-to-day. Since I don’t have to coach a sport, I can spend part of my day putting out small fires and then I can take the rest of my day and think about how do we improve X, Y, Z, and improve the student-athlete experience. That’s where it all starts with me—how do we improve the student-athlete experience? Whether I’m raising money through the M-Club or through sponsorships to provide more opportunities for them, or any kinks in the gameday experience… All those things start off with improving the student-athlete experience. Hopefully, because of having a full time AD and being able to dedicate time, we have made the student-athlete experience better.
P&W: What do you think the fans can look forward to for this year?
JB: Hopefully in year two [there will be] less mistakes from my office. You kind of figure out what you’re doing and we’re always refining the game-day atmosphere for fans. We’re upgrading concessions and doing different things. We want to have more contests and more fun things to make it fan friendly. We’ve changed it to where kids 12 and under will always be able to get in any Millsaps athletic event for free. Now that we’re going to have the softball grandstand and tennis area, I think people that come out to watch our softball and tennis programs are going to have a lot more pleasant atmosphere. To be able to have amenities like concessions stands and restrooms, it will be a much nicer experience. [Also] continuing to be able to do some of the fun things we did last year like promotions, free food giveaways, T-shirt giveaways, and things like that.
P&W: What are your thoughts on the record crowd we had for the Riverside Rumble game?
JB: “I think it’s great that we can have an opponent that is right across the street. Losing the rivalry versus Mississippi College was tough with them moving to Division II, and I think [Belhaven] is a natural fit for us to play as a rival with them moving into Division III. Even when that will be [an away] game, it is great for us that we won’t have to get on a bus or hotel and it will be right across the street. Having that in-town rivalry across the street is fun…where it’s not too much animosity or too much bad blood, but a good, clean, fun rivalry… It was great to see so many people from Belhaven come over here, and hopefully we have that same presence over there next year. Hopefully we can keep that going and it will be a fun way to kick off the year from now on.
P&W: Where do you see yourself and our athletic program in five years?
JB: In five years, I see this program at the top of the conference competing in all sports. I think we have some programs that are young—when you think about men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s track and field, and cross country. We have a lot of programs that are very young in their history, and five years from now I want to see those programs maturing to the point that they’re competing for conference championships. When we get those six programs on that level combined with the 12 programs that have more storied history, you put all 18 of those together and we should be competing for the conference championship in all sports. I want us to be the premiere athletic department in all of the Southern Athletic Association. I think we can get there. I think we have a lot of great coaches. Part of the key to that is the student-athlete experience, so it helps us recruit more.
On my part, my job is to retain the coaches and take care of the coaches. I think we have a great coaching staff across the board right now, and if I can retain those coaches, I think it will pay off in the long run. In five years, some of those coaches in their fifth year or 10th year will see those programs really do well and take off, and [we can be] right up there at the top winning conference championships. And all the while maintaining our great academic reputation and still achieving a 3.0 or better department-wide GPA.
P&W: What do you think is the biggest success you’ve had so far in your first year?
JB: I don’t ever like to say that one success is my own. The thing I’m most proud of is how much I feel at home here at Millsaps. The people here are so welcoming and just the vibe from campus. I try to have a certain leadership mentality. Hopefully, I’ve helped build that camaraderie. The camaraderie is something I am always proud of. What I enjoy most is interacting with student-athletes and coaches… I just enjoy the friendships and relationships, and all that goes with that. I have had more fun working here than I have had anywhere else before… I don’t do this for the accolades or any of that because AD don’t win or lose games, but I do it for seeing the enjoyment that student-athletes get out of competing… (laughs) I think I am most proud of the job I did coaching first base during the softball conference tournament. I didn’t get anyone picked off or called out at second base, so I am very proud of that.