EL PASO, Texas - Jim Senter, the new athletic director at the University of Texas at El Paso, outlined what he plans to accomplish during his first 100 days on the job.
Senter said Monday he wants to hire a good football coach, meet as many of the top donors as he possibly can and hold a series of town hall meetings to ask fans what it will take for them to support the school's athletic programs. "Sometimes, that could be painful, but that's the kind of feedback I need to get to work," Senter said, "Everything starts with a positive attitude. Instead of focusing on the things UTEP doesn't have, focus on the things we do have and the great things we are doing."
Senter is replacing longtime athletic director, and former UTEP football coach, Bob Stull, who announced his retirement in September. Senter has been the director of intercollegiate athletics at the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, since 2014.
"It's not every day you follow an icon like coach Stull," Senter said Monday, "Thank goodness I don't have to follow him up as a head football coach because he did a very good job during his tenure as a coach." UTEP began its news conference Monday by thanking Stull for the "extraordinary leadership he provided for more than two decades."
UTEP President Diana Natalicio said, "transitions like these are always bittersweet because you are bidding farewell to a colleague, but it's also a happy occasion when you know that the baton is being handed over in a smooth and productive way."
Natalicio, who described Senter as "highly qualified," also praised university vice president, Richardo Adauto, who Natalicio credited for a "remarkable, efficient and well-coordinated search for the new athletic director."
Senter said Monday he wants to win, but his priority is making sure student athletes are successful. "Our job is to educate young people and my job is to make sure student athletes reach their highest potential," Senter said, "You can get caught up in the business of athletics, of raising money, but you need to focus on the business of making sure student athletes maximize their potential."
Senter said he and his staff wants to engage the El Paso and Juarez communities to make sure the university and its teams have the support they need. "Great organizations start with great people. We want to build a culture of family and it comes down to the idea that everyone is valued. Every person makes a difference," Senter said.
UTEP has great facilities like the Don Haskins Center and the Sun Bowl, Senter said, adding it's now up to his staff to engage the community to fill those facilities.
"If I didn't believe that we could win and be successful here, I wouldn't be standing here, and I say that from the bottom of my heart," Senter said.
The UTEP football program just endured a winless season. Head Coach Sean Kugler stepped down midway through the season and Stull decided to bring back former head football coach Mike Price on an interim basis. Price said he had no intention of taking over the team on a permanent basis.
Senter told the media he is searching for a new head football coach and wants to make sure he hires the right person. "We're not going to sacrifice quality for speed," Senter said, "We are going to hire someone with great integrity and the demonstrated ability to move the football and score points."
"We're going to tape our ankles and we're going to get to work," the new athletic director said as he finished his first news conference in El Paso.