Alison Cone was Cal Poly’s Interim Athletics Director from 2004 until she officially became Athletics Director in February 2005. At the time of her appointment, she became one of 19 female athletic directors at the NCAA Division I level, which has more than 300 colleges and universities.
Cone, who replaced John McCutcheon, has made many important personnel decisions and has seen the recent rises of both the football and volleyball teams to national prominence.
She sat down recently with the Mustang Daily to talk about her experiences and goals as Cal Poly’s Athletic Director.
Mustang Daily: So, how is it being Athletic Director at Cal Poly?
Alison Cone: I am fortunate to work with some of the finest people in the country, both coaches and staff, and student athletes. I feel so lucky.
MD: What has been the most rewarding part of your job and the hardest part of your job?
AC: I think the most rewarding part is watching our student athletes develop, have some success and really maximize their potential.
The most difficult are the difficult personnel types of decisions – the negative decisions you have to make with student athletes, coaches and staff.
MD: Do you plan to stay at Cal Poly for a while?
AC: Yes, I do plan to stay at Cal Poly.
MD: What are the department goals? Are there any sports in particular that you are focusing on right now?
AC: We are focusing really on all of our sports. We are fortunate to have some really excited, enthusiastic coaches who are working hard to improve their programs. We are really focusing on all of our programs so that every Cal Poly athlete can have a rewarding experience.
MD: There have been quite a few coaching changes while you were interim director and now Athletic Director. What led to the decision to fire long-time men’s soccer head coach Wolfgang Gartner?
AC: Personnel decisions we really don’t talk about. Those are personnel decisions that are made for certain reasons. I do not want to be public about personnel decisions. On a technicality, it was not really a firing. It was a non-renewal of a contract as opposed to a technical contract.
MD: What led you to re-hire women’s basketball coach Faith Mimnaugh?
AC: Again, with personnel decisions, both ones that appear positive and ones that appear negative, I’d rather not comment on. I just can tell you that our athletes are excited and feel very optimistic about the future.
MD: What is your take on the current success of the football team and the volleyball team?
AC: I’m really excited about both of them. They both have incredibly difficult schedules, and so far have been performing just exceptionally well. It’s fun to see Cal Poly getting national attention for positive things in athletics. I’m just so excited for those student athletes who are in those sports because they are having such great opportunities.
MD: A lot has been made about the comeback against Southern Utah last Saturday and how there was a lot of student involvement in the stadium. How did you feel about seeing that?
AC: I’ll tell you, Saturday night was so much fun. Our students were the best. Nobody left the game – everyone was there until the end. The students helped, they really helped and we need that. I think when we complete the stadium and the students have the majority of the east side of the stadium that it will get even more fun for students and they will be able to impact the outcome. I believe fans impact the outcome. As a long-time fan myself I’d always like to think we have something to do with it.
MD: Do you think that there is enough student involvement in Cal Poly athletics?
AC: I think it will improve as our teams gain momentum. Especially with our volleyball team now that we are playing at home. It’s a fun environment, and even if students have never seen a volleyball game before I would expect that if they go and the band is there and the atmosphere is really exciting they will come back. I think that as we get more students living on campus there will be even more chances for students to experience the fun of the athletic events.
MD: So, do you think the football team will finally win it all this year?
AC: I have no idea. The schedule that we have set up is a really difficult schedule, so even to make the playoffs will be a stretch. I think we have an exceptional football team, but it takes an exceptional football team and a little luck to win it all.