While Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is known for its strong business and graduate programs, the school’s athletic department has made a great deal of progress during the past 10 years, growing from a small non-NCAA athletic program into a Division II program that today has 17 teams.
Since entering the NCAA, the NSU Sharks have won six team and seven individual Division II National Championships and 21 Sunshine State Conference Championships in sports such as basketball, golf, soccer, and swimming.
The man at the forefront of NSU’s athletic success is its athletic director, Mike Mominey. Mominey was hired originally at NSU in 2000 as the university’s head baseball coach. In 2002, he also was named the athletic director. Mike held both the athletic director and head baseball coach positions for nine years until he relinquished himself from the coaching role in 2010 in order to focus on directing the university’s fast-growing athletic department.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to ask Mominey a few questions about himself, his position, and the Nova Southeastern University Athletic Department.
Q: What personal qualities make you most qualified for your position?
A: It’s really not important if I think I am the most qualified person for this position but I would hope that the people who have made that decision over the years would say that my integrity, work ethic and loyalty would be some of the traits that help qualify me for this position.
Q: What made you want to become an athletic director?
A: When I came to NSU I had no intentions of pursuing a career in administration and certainly not as the athletic director. I was coming from Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School in Hollywood as the athletic director/baseball coach, but I was totally focused on a coaching career when I arrived at NSU in the summer of 2000. Given my age, career path and my family situation, I definitely wanted to go in the direction of college coaching.
Q: What barometer do you use to define success or failure for your job?
A: There are many ways to define success and failure in this business and most of the time that is purely by results of the teams and other measurable outcomes. After all it is sports and you can read the scores on the Internet and in the paper every day. For me, however, it is about so much more even so much as the intangible things. Yes, we are in the athletics business, but more importantly we are in the business of education. We need to remember that athletics at the intercollegiate level are a means to educate young men and women in ways outside the classroom. We have a tremendous opportunity to teach young people the meaning of winning and losing and all that comes along with it. We focus on teaching them the leadership skills that will make them successful in life after the four years here; skills that will make them successful in the real world.
Q: What is your three- to three-year goal for the department?
A: Our goals include maintaining the success we have had the last three to five years and build on them to take the program to the next level. This would include success on the fields of play, but also in the classroom and in the community. We feel that athletic success, academic success, and engagement in the South Florida community are the three pillars of success. Championships, graduation rates and community involvement are equally important here at NSU.
Q: What is the most important thing you tell parents of recruits when they are considering Nova Southeastern?
A: That their child will get a quality education as a student and that they will have a quality experience as an athlete. We have a support system within the department and the university that will provide all the opportunities that their child could possibly want or need. They will, in turn, just have to take advantage and pursue of those opportunities.
Q: Name the one thing that keeps you up at night and what you are doing to prepare to meet that challenge.
A: The one thing that keeps me up at night? Ha! It really depends on the time of the year and the situation at hand. Most people think that this is all negative; well I have been kept up at night even during good experiences. In this job, you need to have a tremendous amount of trust and confidence in your coaches and your staff and your university. That is exactly what we have here at NSU, so those sleepless nights are very limited because of that.
Q: What is it about Nova Southeastern that brought you here?
A: I would say potential and opportunity. It was baseball at first for me and I had always felt that NSU was this “diamond in the rough” type of institution since I had moved to South Florida in 1992. I had kept my eye on the school and actually coached against NSU and played at the baseball facility before I came here. Then, when I transitioned to administration, I really knew then that this potential could be realized and I think most people agree that we are well on our way to doing that. This is such a great institution with great leadership and it is very fun to be a part of it.
Q: In your opinion, what makes a good student-athlete?
A: Character, first and foremost. There are millions of talented athletes out there but there are much fewer student-athletes out there. The later includes having the character and intelligence to be able to balance the two. Of course there is much more to this including a sense of team over individual success and working toward a common goal.
Q: How do you balance the pressure to win with sportsmanship and academic excellence?
A: For me this is all related. You can’t “win” at anything unless you display sportsmanship and are accomplished academically. You may be able to win on paper and in the box score, but at the end of the day if you haven’t won with integrity then you really haven’t fooled anyone but yourself. Yes the pressure to win is certainly evident each and every day in this business, but you need to have perspective and understand that winning games is an end to the means. The process of getting to that moment in time is what is most important. If you focus on the process of winning, then the pressure of winning is less and really will take care of itself.