Sept. 12, 2007
Michigan State University's Board of Trustees unanimously approved the recommendation of President Lou Anna K. Simon to name current senior associate athletics director Mark Hollis as the athletics director-designate, effective Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2007. Hollis will assume the role as MSU's 18th athletics director on Jan. 1, 2008, succeeding Ron Mason, who previously announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2008.
Beginning Jan. 1, Mason will work actively with Hollis on several issues, including major fund-raising projects and the Big Ten Network.
Hollis brings more than 20 years of athletics administration experience, either at the school or conference level, to his new position. His well-rounded background has led to his knowledge of all areas within an athletics department, including marketing, financial administration, television negotiations, fund-raising, game operations, facility management, personnel policy, corporate interaction, sports management and public relations.
A 1985 Michigan State graduate, Hollis returned to his alma mater in 1995. Since then, he has been a critical component of the athletic department executive management staff, helping guide the department through short- and long-range plans. Most recently, he played a lead role in Mark Dantonio's hiring as football coach and provided major assistance with the process to hire new women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant. He oversees all external relations for the MSU athletics department. Included in this group are marketing and promotions, community relations, special-event fund-raising, sports information, ticket operations, spirit groups, broadcast services and corporate sponsorships. He also has sports management supervision of the men's basketball program, while also supervising the cheerleading, dance team and band programs.
"Throughout the search process, it became more and more clear that Mark Hollis is someone widely regarded, widely visible, and yes, widely sought," MSU President Simon said. "To say we found that Mark is competitive nationally would be an understatement. Mark's loyalty to MSU and his desire to implement his strategic vision are also widely known. This position not only is Mark's `dream job,' it is his dream, period.
"It is no secret that since Ron Mason's retirement announcement, I have taken the opportunity to very closely observe Mark's management and his leadership first-hand. It was an exam of sorts. I observed how he handles people - from Trustees to coaches to donors to student-athletes. I observed his handling of media, crises, coaches searches, contract negotiations, and planning. I observed his tactical approaches and his strategic approaches. In the end, Mark got a very good report card.
"My recommendation, my endorsement, and my support are based on performance - now and in the future."
"This process and this result send a signal: we are united and we are unified," Board of Trustee Chairman Joel Ferguson said. "We were unanimous in our vote. We are unanimous in our support. We are unanimous in our optimism.
"I have known and watched Mark Hollis for a long time. He is the right person. And while Mark is widely known for his marketing and creativity, it would be wrong to stereotype him. He is just as prepared in areas of finance, personnel, and strategic planning.
"Coaches, athletes and broadcasters talk a lot about momentum. I've been here a long time, and I can assure everyone that not only do we have momentum - it is accelerating."
"This is a special moment for my family," Hollis said. "I am thrilled with the opportunity to take over the leadership of the department of athletics. Continuity will be a strength, as I work alongside Ron Mason over the upcoming months and build a map to the future of Spartan athletics. The plan before us will include the traditions of the past, a focus on the future, and a commitment to the people of Michigan State University that the present will always be the best it can be.
"When I look back at the names of those who preceded my in this position, it's humbling to reflect on that history. It is important to me to understand those individuals and the decisions they made, as it created our history and tradition.
"It has always been a privilege to serve Michigan State University and I'm thankful for the opportunities that I have been given," Hollis continued. "Your athletics department will operate in a first-class manner, with respect and integrity. We will provide a great experience for our student-athletes and our supporters. We will maintain sound fiscal management and operate within a culture of compliance as we compete for championships. We will honor our rivalries nationally, within the conference, and the state, but make no mistake about it, we will compete and we will achieve."
Hollis has been recognized by his peers as one of the best in the business. In 2002, he was named recipient of the National Marketer of the Year Award as selected by the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA). Under his direction, Michigan State has enjoyed increases in ticket revenues, including five years of sold-out football seasons and nearly 150 consecutive sellouts in men's basketball. He was successful in negotiating a $2 million donation to the University for the construction of the Berkowitz Basketball Complex, providing both the men's and women's basketball programs with one the nation's top office complexes.
One of Hollis' greatest strengths is his ability to "dream big" in an effort to create greater exposure, not just for the Michigan State athletics department but for Michigan State University as a whole. He conceptualized "The BasketBowl," establishing a world-record attendance of 78,129 for a basketball game between Michigan State and Kentucky at Detroit's Ford Field. The concept of placing the court in the middle of the field in a domed stadium will be used by the NCAA at the 2008 Midwest Regional and the 2009 Final Four. Michigan State University earned net revenues of $1 million from the event. Similarly, he executed the "Cold War" ice hockey game between Michigan State and Michigan, drawing a record crowd of 74,554 to an outdoor hockey game in Spartan Stadium.
On Oct. 13, 2005, Michigan State University and WJR - 760 AM announced a five-year agreement to carry Spartan football and men's basketball games, along with coaches' radio shows. Hollis played a leading role in finding MSU athletics a home on the 50,000-watt Detroit radio station, known as the "Great Voice of the Great Lakes." It was an agreement that benefitted more than just athletics as WJR regularly promotes the academic accomplishments of the university in addition to broadcasting sporting events.
His creativity and negotiation skills have helped Michigan State enhance their postseason bowl appearances in a very competitive environment. During his time at MSU, the Spartans have appeared in the Citrus Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Aloha Bowl, Sun Bowl, Independence Bowl and the Silicon Valley Football Classic. He is also a key component during men's basketball postseason play, having been a part of 10 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and four Final Fours, handling many operational logistics.
Other strategies resulted in positive returns for the department and University in the areas of licensing, retail novelties, concessions, and parking. Another plan resulted in a 316-percent increase in women's basketball attendance, earning MSU the Big Ten Conference Super Fan Award, recognizing the greatest attendance increase in the conference.
Some of his other successful ideas include a retro-broadcast of a MSU-Indiana men's basketball game to celebrate ESPN's 25th anniversary of televising men's basketball, a "When I Grow Up" women's basketball event that attracted over 12,000 fans to a mid-week day game, Midnight Madness events for men's and women's basketball with crowds of over 14,000, "100 Seasons" celebrations for both football and men's basketball and a National Championship Parade of Champions.
In this era of college athletics, Hollis also excels in his relations with corporate partners. During his time guiding the office, the athletic department's annual sponsorship revenue billing has increased from $350,000 to nearly $3 million. He developed an innovative sponsorship relationship with Nike for footwear, apparel and licensing resulting in cash payments to the University and product for all athletic programs. He negotiated sponsorship agreements with major corporations such as General Motors, Pepsi, LaSalle Bank and Farm Bureau Insurance. In addition, he negotiated exclusive multi-media agreements with outside entities for radio, Internet and game program rights, generating more than $700,000 annually. In total, Hollis and his staff manage more than 100 corporate sponsor accounts for the department.
Hollis also understands the importance of television broadcasts and other multi-media outlets for promoting the athletic department and the University. Through a combination of innovative strategies and personal relationships with ESPN, ABC and CBS television, he increased Michigan State's television exposure by 60 percent for football and men's basketball. ESPN's College GameDay has been on campus for both football and men's basketball, and even the Weather Channel has been on campus for a remote broadcast. He also worked to make sure that many of MSU's programs enjoyed the benefits of television coverage, creating the department's first broadcast opportunities for women's sports with a television, radio and Internet package for women's basketball, volleyball, softball and gymnastics. His background in the field allows Hollis to better understand how to use the emerging Big Ten Network to provide national television exposure for each one of MSU's varsity sports, and how to combine athletics with the academic mission of the University. His negotiation skills and ingenuity helped increase annual radio rights revenue and reduce production costs for coaches' television shows. Understanding the importance of the Internet in today's world, he negotiated an Internet agreement that has MSU ranked consistently in the national top 20 with nearly 1.5 million page views monthly.
In addition to his cultivation of outside multimedia agreements, Hollis also designed and implemented the department's in-house broadcast production facility. The sports broadcasting office produces a weekly magazine-format television show promoting all of Michigan State's 25 varsity sports which is distributed nationally on FSN Detroit. The same group also controls the video board displays at Spartan Stadium, the Breslin Center and Munn Ice Arena, providing an enjoyable experience for Spartan fans. In addition, the office also produces highlight videos and services other broadcast needs.
Prior to returning to Michigan State, Hollis spent two years at the University of Pittsburgh as assistant and associate athletic director. While at Pitt, he directed the operations for external affairs, game management and facilities, while also managing the day-to-day operations and budget of the football and men's basketball programs. In just two years, he developed the department's facility master plan, including a $7 million renovation of Pitt Stadium, and initiated the first corporate sponsor program.
Before his stint at Pitt, Hollis worked for the Western Athletic Conference. He joined the WAC as an administrative assistant immediately after college. Two years later, he was appointed assistant to the commissioner and soon thereafter was promoted to assistant commissioner. As assistant commissioner, Hollis was responsible for all aspects of the budget, financial management, corporate sponsorships, promotions, personnel policies, conference tournaments, basketball officiating and general administrative duties. He coordinated relationships with postseason bowl games and television entities, resulting in significant increases in bowl appearances by conference teams.
Hollis earned his bachelor of arts degree in communication from Michigan State in 1985, where he served as a basketball team manager under Jud Heathcote. In 1992, he earned his MBA in business administration from the University of Colorado.
He and his wife Nancy, have a daughter, Katy, and two sons, T.R. and Michael.
Michigan State Athletics Directors
Charles Bemies: 1899-1900
George Denham: 1901-1902
Chester Brewer: 1903-1910, 1917, 1919-1921
John Macklin: 1911-1915
George Gauthier: 1916, 1918
Albert Barron: 1922
Ralph Young: 1923-54
Clarence "Biggie" Munn: 1954-1972
J. Burt Smith: 1972-1975
John D. Shingleton: 1975-76
Joe Kearney: 1976-1980
Doug Weaver: 1980-1990
George Perles: 1990-1992
Merrily Dean Baker: 1992-1995
Merritt Norvell: 1995-1999
Clarence Underwood: 1999-2002
Ron Mason: 2002-2007
What They're Saying About Mark Hollis . . .
Former Michigan State Athletics Director and Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Joe Kearney:
"First, I'm not at all surprised to see Mark Hollis named athletics director at Michigan State. I certainly felt that he had all the tools to be an outstanding athletics director.
"I interviewed Mark right out of college for an entry level position at the WAC. Jud Heathcote recommended Mark for the position, and if you know Jud, he doesn't go overboard when it comes to making endorsements. I could tell, though, that Jud thought very highly of Mark.
"I found Mark to be very bright, very energetic and very motivated. My only problem was that I couldn't promote him fast enough. Mark became an assistant commissioner in a relatively short period of time, and he was a great asset to the conference. I've been so proud to watch Mark go out and accomplish some many great things.
"During his tenure in the WAC office, I truly felt like I developed a father-son relationship with Mark. He was very close in age to my son, Robin, and they became very good friends. When Mark left the conference office for Pittsburgh, I honestly felt like I had lost a son. He was an invaluable staff member."
WJR Radio President and General Manager Mike Fezzey:
"Ron Mason has set the stage for a very bright future, and we are delighted with the choice of Mark Hollis to lead the MSU Athletics Department.
"Mark's involvement (in the negotiations) played a major role in our decision to return to East Lansing as the flagship station for Spartan football and basketball. Mark helped create the unique alliance between our institutions, reaching well beyond the field and arena. His creativity and concern for the success of WJR has resulted in a true partnership."
Alamo Bowl Executive Director Derek Fox:
"From my perspective and the bowl's perspective, we're excited about the selection of Mark Hollis as Michigan State's next athletics director. He's one of the best and brightest in the industry. His creative juices never stop flowing.
"Mark has great passion, desire and loyalty. In addition, he's a tireless worker, who is willing to do whatever is necessary to help Michigan State standout above the rest. Mark is an outstanding and well respected representative of the University."