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Sports Ad Diversity Interview Series: Mike Rodriguez ('83), University of Akron

Tuesday, April 12 2016 10:08am

The Associate Athletic Director for Business for the Akron Zips, and 1983 MSA graduate, talked to us about fostering diversity in a university athletic department.

Q & A By Valerie Dunlap ‘17 

What is your current role and what are your main responsibilities?

After serving as the Assistant Director of the Davidson College Wildcat Club for four years, I was able to come back to my home of Northeast Ohio and have now been at The University of Akron for 29 years. I began here as a ticket manager before becoming a business manager. Now, as the Associate Athletic Director for Business, my current role is to serve as the CFO of the Athletic Department. I oversee budget of $33 million, specifically dealing with all fiscal matters, insurance, and also supervise strength and conditioning. Additionally, I am the sport administrator for the men's and women's track and field teams as well as the rifle team.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity encompasses differences in backgrounds: socioeconomic backgrounds as well as cultural backgrounds. On a college campus you are exposed to a lot of different people, which is a great opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds than yourself. Athletic teams serve as a big melting pot, allowing different people to come together in order to work toward a common goal.

How is diversity beneficial in your work environment?

Diversity enables me to experience different points of view and helps to further open my mind.  A diverse student body helps me to better understand where people are coming from and continue to grow.           

Does the University of Akron have specific programs or best practices to foster diversity and inclusion in athletics?

At Akron, we invite guest speakers once a year to speak about various topics related to diversity. Athletics partners with the University to host the Black Male Summit, which discusses role models and black male issues on campus. Human Resources seeks to have a diverse applicant pool for every open position. Of course, there is always room for improvement.

In your opinion, is there a particular facet of college athletics that is better at promoting diversity and inclusion than others?

In my opinion, the most diversity is seen across the board in coaching positions, while diversity among senior management positions still needs to be improved.

How has your experience in the OHIO Sports Administration program shaped your chosen career?

Aside from being the best program out there, the network allowed me to secure a great job directly after completing the program. The program is great in the sense that it is one big family. You can call up anyone in the directory and they'll help you out in any way that they can.

What is your best advice for current students in the program?

I would encourage current students to get as much experience and make as many contacts as possible. Differentiate yourself from the applicant pool by trying new things and volunteering in your area of interest.  



Check out the rest of our Diversity Interview Series:

Kenisha Webb, Just Marketing International

Tara Jackson, UFC

Joseph Watkins, Lincoln University

Martin Graham, Orlando Magic

Leslie Fields, Northern Kentucky University

Bryan Delgado, ESPN Events

Darryl Dionne, Professional Hockey Players Association