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Eastern Washington ‘on the precipice of greatness,’ athletic director candidate Vince Otoupal says

UPDATED: Wed., April 18, 2018

Utah Valley  athletic director Vince Otopal. (Jacob Scott / UVU Marketing)
Utah Valley athletic director Vince Otopal. (Jacob Scott / UVU Marketing)

Vince Otoupal didn’t need a microphone.

The former Marine Corps captain and college linebacker had no trouble conveying his message Tuesday evening: that he’s the right person to lead the Eastern Washington University athletic department to greater things.

The Utah Valley athletic director not only tried to sell himself, he offered a pep talk to two dozen attendees during a one-hour public forum at the EWU Spokane campus.

“This place is on the precipice of greatness,” said Otoupal, who along with interim athletic director Lynn Hickey is one of two finalists to replace Bill Chaves.

Otoupal even turned an Eastern slogan to his advantage.

“Let’s not start something big, let’s continue something big,” Otoupal said.

Not surprisingly, the session was dominated by one subject: money.

After hearing a recap of Eastern’s failure to capitalize on its 2010 national football title, Otoupal praised the Eagles for their on-the-field success and offered some broad strokes on how that mistake wouldn’t be repeated on his watch.

Otoupal briefly discussed his fundraising successes – highlighted by a $5 million individual donation when he worked at San Jose State – but stressed that the department would succeed or fail as a team.

“I’ve been involved with some major asks and some major gets, but we have to make sure that we have the right team in front of the donor making the ask,” Otoupal said.

Without going into specifics, Otoupal said that it’s important to “go after the right people at the right time,” and that the department must not be afraid to “get in the weeds” to raise funds.

“I think we’re ready for that,” Otoupal said.

Hired at Utah Valley in 2013, Otoupal is familiar with the underdog role faced by Eastern. UVU has an enrollment of 28,000 but competes for funding and fans with higher-profile schools such as BYU, Utah and Utah State.

Otoupal said he appreciated the similarity but got a different perspective from student-athletes he encountered earlier on Tuesday in Cheney.

One student-athlete told him: “I’m tired of being the guy who does more with less. I want to be the guy who does more with more.”

To realize that goal, Otoupal said that fundraising efforts must be bold.

“We are going to do some crazy things. Half of them aren’t going to work, but half of them are going to work,” Otoupal said.

Hickey will get her chance during a public forum Thursday at 5:30 p.m., also at EWU Spokane.

Late this week, the committee is expected to deliver not a recommendation, but a list of “pluses and minuses for each candidate,” to EWU president Mary Cullinan, according to Eastern Provost Scott Gordon, who is chairing the panel with EWU Trustee Judge James Murphy.

Cullinan is expected to announce her choice next week.

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