Laird Veatch University of Memphis

University of Memphis

Laird Veatch Introduced as New Athletic Director at Memphis

August 13, 2019 - 10:20 pm

The University of Memphis introduced new Athletic Director Laird Veatch during a press conference on Tuesday (8/13/19). Veatch will receive a reported 5-year deal at $500,000 per year, along with incentives.

Here's the full release from the press conference from the University of Memphis:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 13, 2019

Memphis Director of Athletics Laird Veatch introductory press conference transcription

Alan Graf, University of Memphis Board of Trustees

“I am very proud and very excited to formally introduce our new director of athletics — Laird Veatch. Being the true family man that Laird is, he brought his family with him today. They're sitting down here on the front row. We have Chuck and Fran, mom and dad, over there on the end. They drove in from Manhattan, Kansas. We have daughters Jordyn, Taylor, Sydney and son Dru. I'll introduce her, and I know Laird is going to talk about her, but his beautiful bride Brandy. You can see that Laird, besides going to be a great AD, he's a great recruiter as well. I just want to take a minute to commend our exceptional president, David Rudd, on this home run selection. David, really fantastic. I also want to give a lot of thanks to a very deserving man, Allie Prescott. Allie had the willingness to come in and take over at a time when there was a lot of pressure and give David the time he needed to do a thorough search and not be rushed. I think you'll see before this press conference is over that we really do have a blue-chip recruit here in Laird. I know the Board of Trustees is excited about working with him, I know the coaches are. I just want to say to Allie, thanks again for what you were able to do. You have all seen Laird's resume. I've gotten to know him a little bit. I can tell you he's extremely energetic. He's smart as a whip. The thing I like about him the most is he's a two-time academic All-American linebacker from Kansas State, so he knows what getting hit is like. But, he also has a great resume at Kansas State and most recently at the University of Florida. You'll hear more about that. We're really proud to have you here Laird and the family, we're delighted to have you. Dru, you look great in that helmet. Without any further ado, let me bring up our great president David Rudd.” 

University of Memphis President M. David Rudd

“Thank you, Alan, I really appreciate that. Coach (Mike) Norvell, good to see you take a break from practice and come over. Coach (Penny) Hardaway would be here, but he is doing difficult duty down in the Bahamas. There was a direct, great benefit for me. I got an excellent parking space right behind the facility for this. Let me thank all you for joining us today to welcome Laird, Brandy, Jordyn, Taylor, Sydney and Dru to Memphis. I also want to take a minute thank our Board of Trustees, our Board of Visitors, the athletic department ambassadors. In particular, I'd like to thank our board chair, Dave North. Please join me in giving a round of applause to our former chair and current trustee, Alan Graf. I would also like to thank our executive committee members Brad Martin and Cato Johnson and BOV member Mike Bruns for their work as part of the search process. I want to take a second and thank Allie Prescott for stepping in and leading this department over the course of the last 90 days. He has done an exceptional job. Allie, I'm forever grateful for your willingness to step in and lead this department. Laird will be transitioning on October 1. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Allie is going to stay on in a new capacity with the University through March working with me as a special assistant to the President's office, assisting me with a number of fundraising initiatives that we've launched over the past 90 days that we are optimistic about our success over the course of the coming year. So, we ensure if you see Allie and I coming, lean over, get your checkbook and get ready. Tiger athletics has a proud history and is a treasured part of this community. Finding the right leadership, finding the right fit for Memphis is essential. We have found the right person to lead this department, to enhance our national impact, to help our coaches win championships, our athletes achieve academic success and graduate and launch new careers, serve as ambassadors for this University, capitalize on the unique passion and energy of Memphis and help this department form partnerships both internally across our campus and externally across our city and the country. We needed to find someone that could help Tiger athletics take the next step. I can tell you with absolutely no hesitation that Laird is the right choice to do just that. He is an exceptional administrator, an outstanding leader, a proven fundraiser, someone with substantial media experience and exposure, along with vast experience at some of the nation's leading athletic departments and a broad array of relationships across this country. As a former student-athlete, he brings a unique perspective and understanding to this role. One that recognizes the significant challenges of student-athletes and what they face today and the many responsibilities they juggle. I don't know if it's if there's ever been a more difficult time to juggle the demands of being a student-athlete. It was clear to me and to the group that worked on this, that Laird checked all the right boxes, but we also needed to find someone who would recognize and embrace those unique qualities of Memphis. We knew very quickly that Laird was that person. So please join me in welcoming the new athletic director for the University of Memphis, Laird Veatch.”

University of Memphis Director of Athletics Laird Veatch

“All right Tigers, are we ready? Thank you all for being here. You can imagine this is a pretty special moment for me and for my family. I appreciate you being here and enjoying it with us. President Rudd, thank you for the opportunity. I could not be more excited and more honored. I've genuinely enjoyed the conversations we've had over the last few weeks, and I'm looking forward to following your leadership. I also want to thank Allie. He's been recognized a couple of times already, the President mentioned he'll be a special assistant to him, but I think we're going to be trying to arm wrestle over who gets your support and help. Allie, I know you got this covered until October when I get here, but I see a friendship in our future, and I appreciate all your help. I want to also thank the current staff, the athletic department staff and coaches. I know how challenging a transition can be, but I also know what it takes to run a department. There's going to be a lot of good comments about all the things that are going on here right now, and I know that doesn't just happen. So, thank you for your efforts, your hard work over the last several months and years getting to this point. I also want to thank Tom Bowen, my predecessor, for all of his hard work and the things he did to impact this University and this department. I want to take a second and thank a couple of ladies, Tammy Hedges and Stephanie Beasley, in particular, for all the detailed work you've put in at this point. Can we give them a round of applause real quick? Tammy and Stephanie, I especially appreciate the time you spent with my wife and daughters showing them around town. You made this a much easier sell for me at home, so that was very important, and I appreciate it. The word I've used to this point describing the opportunity and the situation that I see here is momentum. I believe you're going to continue to hear that from me over the months and years ahead. I am extremely excited about what's going on here. That doesn't just happen. It happens because of leadership. I want to also thank, although they've been recognized a few times to this point, the trustees. Especially the ones who I've met through this process — Alan, Cato Johnson, Brad Martin, David North. I also had the opportunity to meet Fred Smith briefly and what an incredible man. Fred, if you're out there, thank you for all that you mean to this University, this community. I want to thank the Board of Visitors, I understand there's a great deal of work and effort that you put in to help make this place what it is, so thank you. I look forward to meeting you and working with you. As I've also said many times — in our world, coaches drive success. I want to thank Coach Penny. While he's not here, I want him to know that figuratively, I'm really, really glad he is here. You can imagine the impact and the opportunity this presents for an athletic director to step into a time like this. Coach Norvell, I've especially appreciated our time together. I've told a few other folks in our business that I've met with and interviewed a lot of head coaches — nobody's impressed me more than the time we spent together in just that hour. I'm excited to be with you and work with you. And finally, to all of our head coaches, while I haven't had a chance to meet many of you yet, I really look forward to it. I've heard wonderful things, and I'm sure excited to come alongside you. You know, we're standing here in the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center, and this is certainly an incredible facility. But as we stand here, I can't help but think how amazing it is how life tends to circle back around. When I was a young fundraiser coming right out of grad school at the University of Texas and I was at Missouri at the time, I had the opportunity to meet the Laurie and the Walton families during my time there in Columbia. They were really one of the first true philanthropic families that I was able to meet. That includes Bill and Nancy but also includes Miss Audrey Walton. The story that I want to tell really quick and my wife and I have shared a few other times. When our oldest daughter, Jordyn, the tallest of the blondes in the front, when she was just a baby in diapers, my wife and I took the opportunity to drive out to Versailles, Missouri, and meet Audrey Walton at her home to introduce her to our daughter. We drove up to their house, a really humble house that looked like all the rest of them around it in small-town Missouri and walked in and everything was the same except for on the wall was a large gold “W” and there was what I think was a replica of the Rams Super Bowl trophy on their conference room table. So, those things stood out a little bit, and she went on and had this wonderful conversation and told this amazing story how Walmart got started and the family, etc. I remember at that time realizing that was one of the moments where I fell in love with the profession. Just because of the people you meet, and the relationships you build, and the stories you hear, it is unlike anything else. It really has an opportunity to bridge people together. I think back even before that, what led me into working in college athletics certainly was part of being a student-athlete. The story has been written many times about the remarkable turnaround at Kansas State under Coach (Bill) Snyder in the early ‘90s when I was with my other teammates there. It was an amazing, amazing experience on how it impacted me and so many of my other teammates. It sticks with us forever. It is one of the things we are most proud of in life, certainly, but for me in terms of this profession when I realized that I really wanted to stay with it and do it is when I understood the impact it could have on a community. I will tell you the time when that really hit me was the summer between my junior and senior year when all the other co-captains from the team and myself were speaking all across the state in Catbacker groups and rotary clubs, and we were coming off of literally the first bowl victory in the history of the school. And what I saw that do to the pride and the bonding and the relationships and the excitement in that community really stuck with me and that drove me to decide this is something that I want to be a part of and continue. So, I fast forward today, and I think about what really, in the end, pushed me over the edge that this is the right opportunity at the right time for me, and that is when I started to get an inkling of what this Athletic Department and this University means to this City. The opportunity to be with you people and embrace that and be with you people is something that I could not be more excited about. I believe there is a greater purpose in college athletics that doesn’t always get discussion and notice, and that is in my mind it is one of the unique bonding fabrics of our country. I really believe that. It has an opportunity to build relationships across the board. You look at opportunities of relationships between teammates, coaches of teammates which are some of the most influential in our society to fans, to friends to co-workers. This has a way of bringing people together and building relationships. Believe me when I say that I understand being in a leadership position of an organization that can mean that much to that many people is a big responsibility and a big honor and is something that I won’t take lightly. This is the moment when I get to take the time to recognize some more folks. I appreciate your patience. I realize this is more about me and them so I appreciate you indulging me and hanging with us as I get through this, but it is really important to me. There have been several nice comments made about the places we have been able to be, and Brandy and I along our journey have enjoyed some incredible, incredible places. We have so enjoyed every stop along the way but those are really made up of the people and the impact it has on you and the people you are with and particularly the mentors and teachers who have guided you along the way. I am going to step back through some of those stops. First of all at Kansas State, I want to thank all of my teammates and all my coaches … too many to mention … particularly Max Urick. Max was my first athletic director. He was throughout his time a model of what an athletic director should be in my mind, and he continues to be a friend today. So, thank you Max. I want to thank DeLoss Dodds, who gave me my first opportunity as a graduate assistant at the University of Texas, literally created an internship out of nothing after he got his arm twisted by the Kansas State President and AD and coaches and other folks that were helping me out along the way. And I especially want to thank Chris Plonsky, his deputy at the time, who really allowed DeLoss to stick me in a corner of her office in a little table with a dial-up phone and a tie on and ready to deliver a ticket across any part of the city at any moment's notice. The things I learned there were remarkable. I want to thank all of my Mizzou friends. We had an incredible run at the University of Missouri with some incredible administrators who are now all over the country. And that certainly started with Joe Castiglione, the athletic director there, my first couple years. Joe gave me my first full-time professional opportunity. Joe, I will never forget that. I appreciate it, but even more so how you've been supportive to me throughout my entire career. My wife, Brandy and I, very much appreciate every step along the way your guidance and support, and I particularly know that I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for you, Joe. And of course, Mike Alden. Mike Alden is perhaps one of the most influential administrators in the country when it comes to developing other athletic directors. Mike, I have told you many times that nobody taught me more about this position and being an administrator than you. I would venture to guess that every one of us in Aldens Army, as we like to call ourselves, would say the same. To my Learfield friends, particularly the leadership of that company, Greg Brown, Roger Gardner, Clyde Lear, Andy Rawlings, all the folks that were there at that time, I want to thank you for showing me what it means to lead an organization that truly cares about its people. And, of course, to all the staff, the friends, the donors at Kansas State, the relationships there and particularly of all the things that I've been able to do and be a part of in my career, I'm the most proud of my time at Kansas State. I particularly want to thank John Currie. John is one of the brightest, most forward-thinking professionals in our industry, but most importantly, he's a true and trusted friend. Thank you, John. Finally, to the Florida team. Most recently, you all know that that is an incredible place. It is really remarkable what has been built there under Jeremy Foley and what Scott Stricklin is able to do to continue to take it to another level. Scott, I want to thank you for the opportunity. You're an incredible man, you're going to continue to go on to do even more amazing things.

Q&A Session

 

Q: Hello Mr. Veatch – Welcome to Memphis. I used to play football here many moons ago. This is a great opportunity for Memphis. You mention momentum. Can you tell us a little about how that thought process went through you when you were at places already established, such as Florida?

 

Laird Veatch: When you are looking at these types of opportunities, the President was nice enough to mention I checked a few boxes for him. We had our boxes too. We look for certain things. Certainly leadership, it starts there. Quality of coaches and staff. The support from the fan base and the quality of the institution. And really the culture of the place. So, you start looking at those kind of things, and those are the main ones, there are probably other ones as well. But those are the ones that stood out to me. So, I started to dig into it and asking questions. And not just to the folks here. I have advisors and people from across the country that help me look at this kind of thing. And, consistently across the board, the opportunity that presents itself here is really special. And particularly at this time. I’m a big believer that time is a huge part of life and from the beginning I wanted to make sure that I came to a place where we fit, where we can help and make an impact but where the timing is right. And I really believe that is here and now.

 

Q: Dr. Rudd, you just talked about kind of taking it to the next level. What about Mr. Veatch do you think really is the right man to specifically take this program to the next level?

 

Pres. Rudd: Well one, I identified the skill set that he brings to the job. Of course, you have to have the competency to able to do that. I think his ability to shape a vision for this department is really exceptional. I think in the coming months you will hear more about that vision. I think the other thing is his ability to work with this community. And to think about the role of athletics within the University but more broadly within Memphis and then nationally as well. So, we are excited about that and are confident that you will see movement. You will see movement quickly. And it will be an exciting ride.

 

Q: As a follow-up, what kind of community input did you have? I know it wasn’t a formal search but if you could kind of elaborate on the community process in this hire?

 

Pres. Rudd: I don’t want to go into all the details of that. But we certainly had some of our trustees involved in that process. We had the Board of Visitors and some of their folks involved in that process. And then also some key stakeholders in the University community that were involved as part of the process as well. Our searches are always interesting. We feel like we have a good model now. It is one that has worked well. It brought us Coach Norvell, which has worked out pretty darn well. I will say, Coach Norvell set the record for how quickly we knew that was the guy we were going to hire. It was about five minutes when we knew, that was the guy we want to hire. It brought us Penny Hardaway and now it has brought us Laird Veatch, and we feel great about it.

 

Q: Dr. Rudd, going off of the previous question. The next step, broadly speaking, what does it look like for this department? Obviously, Laird will dictate the vision, but when you were going into this and looking for a candidate, what did you see as the next step for this program?

 

Pres. Rudd: I think really that is how Laird articulates that I’m going to turn it over him. That is the vision that we brought him in here to shape. What we look for was someone who was confident they had the ability to shape that vision. Laird?

 

Laird Veatch:  The first thing that comes to mind is, with the opportunity to be at different schools over my career, you begin to realize that every place is unique. There are times, I think, where leaders of any organization, particularly athletic directors, one of the mistakes you can make is you can come into a new place and think that you know it all. You have a certain formula or package that you want to come in and deliver to that particular place. I think that it is really important, and that is very genuine, that I get here and listen and ask a lot of questions. And you can’t answer that question truthfully until you begin that process. When I say I want to get together with people here and develop that vision, I mean that genuinely. I do think that the things that I mentioned earlier, about the core tenants of what we are going to believe as a department, are really important. And those are consistent, they should be, across athletic departments in our country. We will form that together, and we will all take it on. You will find I like to have a plan, I like to be organized and strategic, and we will have a plan. I’ll also say, it is not something that happens overnight. I’m not necessarily patient, we are going to work our tails off. But, at the same time that one of the things that I learned, starting with the experience at Kansas State as a player, is the importance of just getting a little bit better every day. And finding ways to improve bit by bit by bit. As you do that, that is how those kinds of visions are realized.

 

Q: You’ve spent most of your professional life at Autonomous Five programs. Did I say that right? Autonomous five?

 

Pres. Rudd: Let me applaud you on your use of Autonomous Five versus Power Five.

 

Laird Veatch: Power 6!

 

Q: What is the challenge for a program like this one here? Which Memphians feel is the top of the next level. How are they different and how have you been able to work your mind around, thinking that you know you had all this money coming in at places like Florida and Missouri. And here, you really have to grind for what you get.

 

Laird Veatch: Well, first of all, I’d say you would actually find there are a lot more similarities than differences. There are certainly more resources at several schools. The one I will continue to be employed at for the next month or so is one of those that is really in another echelon of schools in terms of resources. At the same time, what you will find there is all of them, including the school where I am currently at, continue to have challenges meeting their expenses. A lot of this is management. But I find at other schools I’ve been to, like Kansas State or Missouri, frankly aren’t that dissimilar to what we are here. In terms of budget, size, staff sizes, resources and facilities. You have got to be creative and you have to be smart about how you do it and how you approach things. There are really more similarities than differences. I think there are also advantages that you find with schools of our size. You tend to be a little nimbler, a little more lean and mean. And maybe operate a little more efficiently. There are some things that we will find as we work through it. But, I’m looking forward to some of the advantages as well.”

 

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