Four Questions with New AD David Benedict
UConn has a proud tradition of excellence when it comes to its student-athletes—and the new athletics director would like your help in growing that tradition.
This month UConn Nation welcomes David Benedict to Storrs after current Athletics Director Warde Manuel heads to the University of Michigan. Benedict, currently the Chief Operating Officer at Auburn University, has previously served for institutions such as the University of Minnesota, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Arizona State University.
Benedict was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.
Welcome to #UConnNation! We have a spirited alumni base of more than 241,000, and for many people who grew up in the area, being a UConn fan is part of the deal. Any message you’d like to send to those who bleed blue?
I’m honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead this athletic department, and I look forward to engaging with our alumni, donors, and fans.
With that large an alumni base, it should be our goal to fill our venues and support our student-athletes when they compete and represent UConn. We want to include you in the game-day experience conversation. We want to make sure that when you attend our events, that you have a great time. So it’s important that we have dialogue and learn about what you like and don’t like. This will provide a starting point for us to begin to make changes that will hopefully positively impact our fans experience.
This is your program, and we need everyone’s support if we want to compete for championships—not just in men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, and field hockey, but in all of our sports.
You’ve served with several institutions throughout your career. With that perspective, how important are athletic facilities to attracting the best student-athletes? How will the new facilities we are planning to build at UConn impact the overall landscape?
They’re critically important. The new facilities that have been built here recently, like the Burton Family Football Complex and the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center, are examples of some of the best in the country. So if we can continue to invest in facilities comparable to that for soccer, baseball, softball and other sports, we will be able to recruit nationally and attract prospects that want to come to a nationally ranked university and athletics program. It makes a statement when you bring prospects and their families on campus and they see a university that invests in best-in-class facilities. It means we’re committed.
You’ve lived all over the country—Arizona, California, Alabama, Virginia, Minnesota. What are you most looking forward to exploring here in New England?
There are a lot of things we’re looking forward to seeing and experiencing. We’ve not yet had the opportunity to take our sons to Boston or New York City, some of the best cities in the country that have a lot of culture and incredible sporting activities. I’ve been in the mid-Atlantic, the Southeast, the Southwest and up and down the West Coast, but we’ve never been to the East Coast. We really like spending time around the beach, when we have the opportunity, so were definitely looking forward to exploring what the East Coast has to offer.
You and your wife, Lisa, are both former student-athletes. Does your family have any game-day rituals or superstitions?
My wife has a very difficult time watching games when things get tight. She likes to be at the game and know what’s going on, but when it gets close she’ll pace and walk around and not necessarily watch. Lisa grew up in Buffalo, which is a great sports town—people rally around their teams there, and I’ve learned a lot about hockey in particular from her family. Lisa’s brother is the head athletic trainer for the Dallas Stars and has worked in professional hockey for a long time.
Like any coach, there are probably times where if things are going really well, I might start to mimic routines—wear a certain tie or shirt. But I don’t have any particular rituals or superstitions. I grew up in Arizona, and when you’re a kid and starting to form those bonds with local teams we only had the Phoenix Suns. By the time the Cardinals and Diamondbacks and Coyotes came in, I was already past forming those allegiances. So instead I’ve found myself rooting for the student-athletes at places I’ve worked. As they’ve gone on and competed professionally, I root for them as opposed to individual teams.
But my dad is from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, so I did grow up a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers as they were winning all of their Super Bowl trophies in the ’70s.