TURLOCK — Upon moving into his office inside Fitzpatrick Arena 18 months ago, Mike Matoso immediately knew what he needed to accomplish as the new athletic director at California State University, Stanislaus.
With few exceptions, Warriors athletic teams have enjoyed only occasional success since 1998, when they became a scholarship-based program and joined the California Collegiate Athletic Association arguably the nations deepest and toughest Division II conference.
The barriers to success were numerous. Stanislaus consistently has ranked in the lower half of the conference in the amount of scholarship dollars it can offer its athletes. With the exception of Warrior Stadium, one of the top soccer and track venues in the state, the schools facilities were not among the best in the CCAA. Even successful teams have had trouble building a fan base from the community, the first step in fostering a following that could be developed into a continuous source of revenue for all the programs.
On top of all that, the campus has a wildly imbalanced female-to-male student ratio of 65-to-35. Under the rules of Title IX and the more stringent California National Association for Women guidelines, it means 65 cents of every dollar spent on athletics has to support female sports, even though mens sports particularly basketball have the highest revenue potential.
Matoso came to Stanislaus after spending 13 years in athletic administration at the University of San Diego. As a private school, USD wasnt subject to the spending rules and regulations that govern public schools, a procedural difference that Matoso claims has been his biggest adjustment since taking the Warriors athletic helm.
He sat down for a few minutes during a recent womens soccer match. It was a fitting scene, as the Warrior women are the schools most successful current program, achieving a No. 5 national ranking that is the highest in the programs history.
Q: Describe your job in percentages administrative vs. fundraising.
A: It varies day to day, and one of the things I like about this job is that you never know what youre coming into on any given day. Sometimes thats the reason I dont like the job. Its probably close to 50-50, and if Im not doing fundraising, Im thinking about it. Youre always thinking about how to increase revenues.
Q: Heres a question Im sure youve been asked a thousand times since you took the job: Whats the possibility of football here?
A: I havent been asked that much. For our size and our resources and the 65-35 gender makeup (65 percent female, 35 percent male) of the school, youd have to at least double your operating budget. Youd have to add womens teams, plus training staff, compliance staff. Its so much more than just adding a sport. Id love to do it, but it would cost a lot.
Q: This female-male ratio is it a barrier, an opportunity or a given?
A: It is what it is, so you have to tailor your programs to that. You have more restrictions here with CAL-NOW on top of Title IX, so you have to make the adjustments. I want to figure out how to get better no matter what, so I look and see that we have a good foundation with good facilities. You cant change the makeup of the university, so you have to figure out the best way to use it.
Q: How is it different getting things done here, at a public school, as opposed to a private school?
A: Its night and day, and its been my biggest adjustment. At San Diego, we had our own contractor and I had a $50,000-limit credit card where I could do things and buy things for the program without getting public bids. Im learning the process, but when I first got here, I did wonder why we just couldnt go out and buy what we needed. Ive learned to build in time cushions when trying to get things done.
Q: When you first got the job, you mentioned that one of your major goals was community outreach getting the community on campus. What can you point to as steps forward in that area?
A: Last month, we hosted the first non-Stanislaus soccer event in the stadium. Were working with CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) to potentially hold track and field championships here. Weve made efforts to get out into the community, with Neighborhood Watch programs and things like that things that get people involved. That will take time. I sense that people do feel more welcome here.
Q: The previous school administration left you a great soccer environment. The mens team made the tournament last year, and the womens team this year is among the best in the country, and they draw about 700 people to a great facility. Thats an amazing following for soccer, but it would be no more than an average basketball crowd. As you move forward, how do you move the money to achieve the community outreach youre seeking with the programs in place?
A: Its a fair enough question. Youre going to battle the crowd question anywhere you are in California. We were No.4 in baseball in the country at San Diego, playing UC Irvine, which was No.7 at the time. A reporter from Baseball America said to me, You have 106 people here right now, and this is the best baseball game in the country. For us, our conference schedule doesnt help. If we played Thursday and Saturday in soccer, wed draw better. Sunday mornings at 11 oclock is a tough time. I wasnt used to coming to a game that early. These (soccer) programs are here and established. They have the foundation for winning, Now we have to focus on the other programs and getting those up. Mens basketball is the sport that will bring people in.
Q: The current president is, among other things, a baseball fan, and all of a sudden, theres construction over there. Is that a coincidence?
A: You have to put your money, with todays kids, into recruiting and scholarships, and a big part of recruiting is facilities. Our soccer facility is probably one of the nicest in California. We know what we need to do with the arena to put in a new floor and new stands that will wrap around to create an arena feel. But the baseball upgrades (a current construction project) started as a safety issue. It wasnt safe. The first time I walked up those stands, I asked if anyone had fallen through before. We needed to make some serious adjustments out there. In Division II, you can get really good really fast, and theres a guy out there (Kenny Leonesio) who has worked his tail off for this university for 14 years and hasnt got much. Were more than happy to help him and all our coaches to help them to win. Im not going to coach or recruit, but Im going to give them the tools to win.
Q: Whats your definition of athletic department success at Stanislaus, and what is it going to take to get there?
A: I want to be the best school in the conference, meaning we win the Commissioners Cup on a regular basis. I want to compete for conference championships. If youre doing that, youre putting yourself in the postseason, and once you get in the postseason, anything can happen. I want our kids to represent the school well to be good role models not only in the town, but the county. And we want people to realize that good Division II athletics are just as good as midlevel Division I athletics. I came here because I saw the potential to create a fun environment here one where people in the community could get behind us and see that these are really good sports.