GCU names Mike Vaught as VP of Athletics
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
An administrator who specializes in leadership, relationships and sponsorships is coming to Grand Canyon University to continue the quest for championships in NCAA Division I.
Mike Vaught was introduced as vice president of athletics on Wednesday morning during a press conference in GCU Arena. He takes over a program looking to build on a successful first year in its transition to the highest level of collegiate competition.
“Our vision for the athletic department is to be top 25 in everything we do,” Vaught said. “We’ll put a plan in place to get there and take the steps necessary to achieve that, whether that’s how we cut the grass or have student-athletes winning championships. We’ll have three goals for our student-athletes: graduate, win championships and be good role models. If we do those, we will produce future leaders for society, great husbands and wives, and moms and dads.”
As deputy director of athletics at Southern Methodist University from 2006 to 2012, Vaught helped a football program that received the NCAA “death penalty” in 1987 end a 25-year bowl drought with four straight postseason appearances. He had a hand in the hiring of two highly respected coaches, June Jones in football and Larry Brown in basketball, and said he created a 72-point checklist of things to fix. Every item on the list was checked off within a year.
“In every area of the athletic department, we did a total makeover,” Vaught said, adding that he plans to bring a 100-day plan to GCU.
“It’s all about people and relationships,” he said. “That’s what makes great things happen. I’ve always put a sign on the door of the athletic department that reads, ‘Our people make the difference.’”
Vaught also was assistant athletics director at Rice University and an assistant football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, Missouri State University and the University of Arkansas. Navy led the nation in rushing when Vaught was offensive coordinator in 1999, and the football coach while Vaught was at Rice was Todd Graham, now the head coach at Arizona State University. “Mike is a talented administrator whose expertise will greatly benefit GCU,” Graham said.
For the last two years, Vaught was director of corporate sponsorships for AdvoCare International in Plano, Texas. Through his involvement, the health and wellness company developed sponsorships in everything from college football (Independence and Texas bowls plus the Texas Kickoff and Cowboys Classic) to Major League Soccer (FC Dallas) to auto racing (Roush Fenway Racing on the NASCAR Nationwide Tour).
“Mike Vaught is a home run hire for Grand Canyon University,” said Chris Del Conte, director of athletics at TCU. “As both an administrator and a coach, Mike knows how to build and sustain winning programs. His vision, leadership qualities and interpersonal skills are an ideal fit for GCU.”
Steve Orsini, former director of athletics at SMU and the University of Central Florida, said, “Mike is the right man at the right time for Grand Canyon University. I worked with Mike when he was a successful football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy and later as a trusted senior athletics administrator at SMU. Add Mike’s most recent success as a senior corporate executive at AdvoCare, and you have a multitalented, proven leader to help guide GCU athletics as it grows into NCAA Division I.”
GCU President/CEO Brian Mueller noted Vaught’s considerable experience in Division I athletics and added, “He’s also a prolific public speaker, has a robust track record in fundraising and shares a deep commitment to the Christian faith and values that we espouse at our university.”
Vaught said a huge attraction for him was GCU’s Christian culture. While he was on campus for interviews, he went to the Chapel service in GCU Arena and was moved by the experience of nearly 5,000 students worshipping.
“The facility is beautiful,” he said. “And when that Chapel service was going on I thought it was very impressive. That’s one of the first things I told my wife about when I got home.”
Contact Rick Vacek at 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.