With Wednesday’s hiring of Brandon Martin as new athletic director, UMKC completed its self-assessment with where it wants to be moving forward: committed to the Western Athletic Conference.
“We have been Division I and intend to stay Division I,” UMKC chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal said, referring to the top division of NCAA athletics.
The challenges of staying and competing in Division I will fall in the lap of Martin, who most recently was the AD at Cal State-Northridge. As KCUR reported earlier this year, UMKC's athletic department has issues with attendance at sporting events and pays thousands each year on travel due to the far-flung, mid-major WAC.
Martin said he looks at it as an opportunity.
“We have 67 percent of our alumni who live in Kansas City. To inspire (them), that’s first and foremost,” Martin said at a news conference in Swinney Recreation Center.
Men’s and women’s basketball games will be played at Swinney for the rest of the season starting in January, which was Agrawal's decision. The campus newspaper, University News, reported earlier this week that UMKC partnered with Kansas City to spend $5 million on renovations to Municipal Auditorium.
Martin resigned as AD at Cal State-Northridge in the spring after a verbal altercation with Reggie Theus, the men’s basketball coach he told he was firing. No charges were filed.
“The lesson learned is that everything that I need to do I need to communicate with my boss,” Martin said. “My boss now is Chancellor Agrawal.”
Martin said he expects to be fully engaged in fundraising for UMKC athletics once he takes over on Dec. 3, adding he wants to increase the resources for coaches like Kareem Richardson, who heads the men's basketball team.
"I've got to go out and I have to build our external unit and make sure that it's in place, make sure that our product and our flagship sports — we've been talking a lot about men's basketball — is in place," Martin said.
Aside from Cal State-Northridge, Martin worked at Oklahoma, where he oversaw the administration of the men's basketball team.
KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.