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LaRose discusses AD role

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Gordon Bates | The Daily Wildcat Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The master front office in McKale Center still sits vacant, unsettled and unlit. One month on the job, Kathleen ‘Rocky' LaRose still hasn't moved into her new suite.


""Not yet,"" said the interim athletic director. ""They just painted the walls.""

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And that's just what President Robert Shelton ordered: Fresh surroundings within the department.


One month ago, Shelton opted not to renew the contract of 16-year athletic director Jim Livengood, who turned 64 years old last year. Without citing specific reasoning for the transition, Shelton appointed LaRose to fill in while he conducts a national search.


LaRose now juggles both her old job — handling the internal affairs within the athletic department — and her new one: the business side of operations.


""The first thing I said when I came interim: We don't want to miss a beat here,"" said LaRose, a 31-year UA veteran. ""We can't (miss a beat) in this competitive business, we have to keep moving forward.""


Work on LaRose's biggest priority will begin next week after the Arizona Board of Regents formally finalizes Arizona Stadium's north end zone expansion, the flagship project of Livengood's athletic facility renovation plan. LaRose will unveil a new campaign intended to fund the expansion through private donations.


""(Boosters) are the backbone of the athletic department as we continue to grow,"" LaRose said.


In an interview with the Daily Wildcat on Thursday afternoon, LaRose discussed the current state of Arizona Athletics as it awaits a new leader.


Daily Wildcat: You said it's a privilege to serve as an interim athletic director. But you said you're not campaigning for the job. Why not?

Rocky LaRose: Well, I love what I do. I've loved being senior associate athletic director of athletics. I've always joked that I had the better half of the department because I got to work with all the coaches and athletes and the part that's our core mission why we're here. I work with the people who work with the athletes on a day-to-day basis. That's why we're here, and having been an athlete, that's what it's all about. This now is so much more. Definitely the external side is a big component. It's the most prominent component.


DW: As universities need new athletic directors, hirees have gone from old-time coaches coming up through the ranks to CEOs and business-minded people taking over. Who is this job for?

RL: I think it needs to be both. I think you have to have been involved with athletics. This is a very complex business. It's too easy to say anybody can step in there to do it. It's political, you're dealing with huge amounts of money, and it's dealing with young people we're trying to educate. It also has to be an educator. It's too easy to find a businessperson that can count money.


DW: One of the biggest things Jim Livengood did was balance the checkbook in difficult economic times. What kind of role have you played ensuring financial security?

RL: That hasn't changed much at all. We were a three-person team with (Senior Associate Athletic Director) John Perrin. Both John and I have been the team that have signed off and been approved. We're good at saying ""no"" and making sure we stay within the confines of our budget. And we're pretty good at that. Our coaches have understood that's the Arizona way.


DW: How's the rest of the fiscal year looking financially?

RL: We're going to end up in the black. Definitely. We know that for a fact. We've already forecasted out through the end of the year. There haven't been any surprises.


DW: Have there been any things you have tried to implement as AD?

RL: No, not at this point. I'm just trying to make sure we're not losing ground.


DW: Every year the graduation rates have been bottom of the Pac-10. Has there been anything different that you would like to see to make that change?

RL: I've been intimately involved with that, too, with the restructuring over the past two years. I just think we're in a terrific spot. The academic program sits up through the Provost's office. I think we're doing the right stuff. It's just going to take time to turn the numbers over. It's a six-year window. It's old data, yack yack yack you've heard it all. Believe me, I'm out of that. Let's start talking about something else. When the (Academic Progress Report) comes out in May everyone is going to be very pleased. We will not be penalized or losing any scholarships.


DW: What have your conversations been with Shelton in terms of day-to-day tasks?

RL: That's it. We've met quite often and it will continue during this transition and I just want to keep him fully updated on everything happening in the athletic department. Day-to-day talk.


DW: Has he given you any long-term schedule?

RL: Yes, his ultimate goal is very clear. I'm in this position until June 30 or until an AD is hired, which could be sooner.


DW: Could finances limit who Shelton goes after as the next athletic director?

RL: Ultimately, yes, if we're being honest, because some ADs are getting paid quite a bit of money, but that doesn't mean they can do a better job than everybody else. Yeah, we have to watch the budget. Arizona has done that continually throughout the years when hiring coaches.


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