Athletic Director, University of Oregon
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn
The fact that a colleague of Rob Mullens’ came across an Oregon Ducks display last fall in a Champs Sports store isn’t all that remarkable. The fact that he came across it at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J., however, is.
“I love getting calls from my colleagues on the East Coast who love the Ducks and want a helmet or want to see a game,” says Mullens, who became UO’s athletic director in 2010. “That says a lot about how much we’ve grown as a brand.”
An accountant who also worked in the athletics departments at the universities of Miami, Maryland and Kentucky, Mullens brought his business acumen to Oregon. Like an executive, he talks about putting the right support systems in place, having an entrepreneurial spirit and appreciating the support of Nike.
While a strong business focus is par for the course in college athletics these days, what’s not so typical, according to Mullens, is having a school with a comparatively modest asset base produce such impressive results. In recent years, Oregon has fostered top contenders in track, cross country, volleyball, softball, baseball and, of course, football.
“When you look at our peers, who have huge budgets and huge alumni bases, we are performing at a very high level,” says Mullens. “We are an anomaly among programs.” Those results, Mullens says, come from a combination of elite coaches, a passionate fan base and an overall commitment to “broad-based excellence.”
“I just try to make sure we have the right people in the right places,” he says.
“We are innovative and we’re willing to try different things. One of the most visible examples of that is our uniforms. There was a point 10 or 12 years ago where people were kind of poking [fun] at that. Now everyone is imitating us.”