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Mark Rountree focuses on football, fundraising to boost student, city involvement

Photo Credit: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - New athletic director Mark Rountree (right) greets Portland State President Wim Wiewel.When Mark Rountree was looking at Portland State just as the Vikings were looking at him as potential athletic director, football was in the middle of the discussion.

After all, the West Monroe, La., native’s roots in the grid sport run deep.

As a 5-7 1/2 (“5-9 in the program”), 180-pound backup running back, Rountree was a four-year letterman at Louisiana Tech from 1987-90.

“I was the guy at the end of the bench,” he says with a Southern twang, “but I loved the sport. Still do. I want to be at a school that has football.”

Rountree was presented to the Portland State community Monday as the school’s new athletic director with a vision of making Viking sports self-sustaining.

“My biggest challenge will be to generate revenue that outpaces expenses, so we can grow the department and do some good things for our student-athletes,” says Rountree, 45, who had served as deputy AD at Miami of Ohio the previous academic year following five years at Georgetown as a senior associate AD. “The next thing is generating success so we connect Portland State athletics to the university community and to the community of Portland.

“I’m looking forward to it. We have a lot of good people here. I have 23 years of athletic department experience that has prepared me to take this role. I plan on being here for a long time. I hope to spend a lot of years here with the Portland State Vikings.”

Rountree cut his athletic administration teeth under Bob De Carolis as Oregon State’s associate AD for compliance from 2004-08.

“I fell in love with this area,” Rountree says. “It wasn’t real hard for me to want to come to Portland and live in this great city.”

At Oregon State, Rountree ran the athletic compliance department.

“In that job, you work with every other unit in the department — business, fundraising, coaches and teams,” he says. “You get exposed to a lot of things. Working with ‘Bobby D’ was great. Being a part of his senior staff, you learn.

“When you’re sitting in that room, you hear Bob talk about different things. I was thinking, ‘One of these days I’m going to be able to use that knowledge as an athletic director.’ I’m getting that chance now.”

De Carolis recognized Rountree’s potential during his time at OSU.

“He’s a very solid and accomplished administrator,” De Carolis says. “The thing I appreciated about Mark, he was always creative and looking to see what we could do as opposed to what we couldn’t do, and in the right way. He was always trying to work with you.

“I think he’ll do well. It’s a tough job. There are not a lot of resources there. But he has a ton of energy, and he knows what he’s doing.”

Football is at the forefront of Rountree’s plans.

The PSU program, he says, “is on good ground. I spoke with President (Wim) Wiewel about that. There has been no mention of not having football on this campus.

“We have a funding model in which we have to play a couple of guaranteed games, and we’re prepared to do that — to keep football a vibrant part of this campus. Right now, that’s the budget model. As we continue to grow and generate more revenue, we’ll see if that changes.”

Football is a critical part of Portland State’s fundraising effort for not just the athletic department, but for the university, Rountree says.

“I really believe that can connect thousands of people to your campus,” he says.

He wants to make athletics, in general, and football, in particular, more relevant to the student body.

“I have a vision of Portland State athletics connecting students to the university,” he says. “We have 29,000 students. It’s the biggest school in the state. We’re here for them to get a degree, and we want them to feel the pride of a solid athletic program. I also want to connect with our faculty. I want them to share my vision for athletics and academics.”

Rountree wants to sell “the city of Portland,” too.

“We’re an urban school,” he says. “To me, that’s fun. There’s a lot of energy that goes with being downtown that you can’t find at a lot of schools. It gives us a unique brand at Portland State. You draw a radius around our institution, there are 3 million people within 20 minutes. That’s a lot of opportunity for me to go around and talk to people and get them excited about Portland State.”

Rountree already has developed a relationship with Bruce Barnum, the successor to Nigel Burton as Portland State football coach. He is clear that Barnum’s one-year deal serves as an audition for the future.

“Coach Barnum is the interim coach for 2015, but in my mind, he’s the head coach,” Rountree says. “We’re going to support him 100 percent. There are 100 young men playing football who are depending on us to put them in the best situation to win games next year.

“I’m looking forward to working with him. He’s in a contract year. He knows all the things that go along with that — that he must produce so he can get a long-term deal. He’s been a coach for 20 years. He knows what he needs to do to have some success.”

One of the major items of business is renewing a contract with Peregrine Sports, LLC, which owns the Portland Timbers and runs Providence Park, where the Vikings have played most of their home games for a half-century.

“I’m looking forward to working with Peregrine and seeing what we need to do to iron out an agreement for next year,” Rountree says. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get that done.”

Integral to Rountree’s vision is the $44-million makeover of Stott Center — where the Vikings play basketball — that will become Viking Pavilion, which will seat 4,700 for sports and 5,500 for other performances.

“The project is on track,” he says. “We’re close to finalizing it. It will give us enhanced opportunities to generate revenue for our programs with increased amenities for donors.

“There are a lot of evaluations I’m going to do regarding football and basketball and what we can do to engage students and get them to come and cheer for Portland State. I can’t wait to get started.”

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