Bernard Muir has been the director of athletics at the University of Delaware since 2009 and was previously the athletic director at Georgetown University. With the football team’s January run for an NCAA Division I FBS championship still fresh in the minds of Blue Hens and the opening of a 54,000 square-foot addition to the Bob Carpenter Center set for fall, Muir spoke with Alexandra Duszak about his goals as athletic director and moving up to Division I.
TSD: You previously worked in the athletics departments of Notre Dame and Georgetown, both of which are famous for their school spirit. How does working at a mid-size state university like UD compare?
BM: I would just say that each institution has its own unique twists and turns of what they’re passionate about. Certainly the Delaware brand is tried and true to the folks within the state, within the region, and what’s exciting with any institution is that people get passionate about the particular place that they follow or they call their alma mater and that is no different than the passion that people bring to this institution. It’s very similar to what I’ve experienced thus far in my career.
TSD: With the success of UD’s football program and the school’s unique size, there’s been some talk of moving up to Division I. Do you see that as a possibility in the near future?
BM: There are people that will bring it up from time to time, but those that understand the landscape and see the amount of research that must be devoted to take that up another notch [understand it’s not likely]. Another thing is you have to be invited by one of the highest-level conferences to become a member. It just makes it hard to straddle at this point, the step in that direction. We really enjoy or relationship with the CAA, arguably the top conference at the FBS level. With the expenditures that we provide in that sport, as well as the other sports that we sponsor, we feel like this is the appropriate level for us to be competing at. We have been successful and continue to have that type of success, and in some cases it’s regionally, in some cases it’s nationally and that’s been our focus right now, rather than taking the football program up to a whole other level.
TSD: What are some of your top priorities as athletic director, especially for sports other than football?
BM: Our goals across the board are we’d like to get our student athletes in a position where they can get up each and every day, work, train and be in a position to win at least conference championships. From there, if you’re able to vie for a conference championship, you have potential to have some great national success, and so our goal is really to put our student athletes in a position for excellence. They have accomplished that in certain sports; in others, we need to provide a little more work and effort and resources in order to make that happen, but we want our student athletes to walk away with a pretty good experience, feel good about the place and want to compete at the highest level.
TSD: A new 54,000-square foot addition to the Bob Carpenter is set to be completed for the fall semester. What are some of the features of the new space, and how will it benefit student athletes at UD?
BM: That project will be done in the fall. That will help not only basketball and volleyball, but will also help our campus recreation. It will provide some additional gyms, which will help our overall campus recreation space. The improvements we’ve been able to do will help the entire student body. We have an addition outside of Frazier Field here where we’ve been able to put some enormous turf fields in to enhance recreation and intramurals and club sports, and we’ll continue to look at projects we can do that serve a dual purpose, so it’s not just something varsity programs but really the entire community can celebrate. We’ve really been fortunate there.
TSD: Has the addition had an impact on the recruitment process yet, or is too soon to tell?
BM: I think we’re already seeing that. If you were to talk to our basketball coaches and our volleyball coaches about that, certainly the building is a great recruiting tool, and we’ve already started to see that come in to play in terms of the commitments that kids are making. It certainly shows a sign that those sports matter, and we’re trying to enhance the experience for student athletes. In terms of basketball, they had to be displaced on occasion because of other functions that were occurring in the Bob. Now, that’s no longer the case. If we have those functions, which we’ll continue to do, we can still find room for them to train and practice in order to get better as student athletes.
For volleyball, there are some great opportunities whereby we’ll be able to play more games—all of our home games—in the BCC, which will enhance the fan base. We’ve had great crowds in the Little Bob and now we expect to grow that in terms of the interest, because it’s a phenomenal sport to watch. We’ve had great success there, and we think that can continue and we can provide a great environment for volleyball student athletes to participate in.
TSD: Aside from the addition, what other projects would you like to see come to life?
BM: As far as what’s on the horizon, we’d love to enhance Delaware Stadium and put some new features in. We’ll have a new press box, we’ll have a new student athlete performance center component, which would enhance our strength and conditioning space as well as sports management space, as well as meeting space for all our programs. So that’s kind of what’s next on the horizon—at some point we’d love to embark on that project. When you look facility by facility, there’s always going to be enhancements that can be done to provide a better experience for our student athletes and hopefully a better watching experience for our fan community.
TSD: Now that you’ve been at UD for a few years, what do you enjoy most about living in Delaware?
BM: I really like Main Street here in Newark. What’s great is my family can attend so many games so quickly. We can really be apart of the community, and I think it’s really a neat environment. We’re still learning the lay of the land, if you will. I’m only two years in, but there’s always new twists and turns, which makes it exciting, and we really have enjoyed this area of the country. We look forward to just continuing to grow our roots here. There’s just so much throughout the state, it’s such a beautiful landscape, so it’s really just a matter of trying to take it all in.
TSD: Main Street is home to so many great restaurants. Are there any that are favorites for your family?
BM: Gosh, I don’t want to get in trouble by promoting one over the other. There are a number of establishments we’ve popped our head in, no question, but I just think there’s so many great places. We’re making our way around.