Mike Cragg, Duke's senior associate director of athletics for operations, interviewed last week for the vacant athletic director position at Rice. Cragg, who oversees the men's basketball operations and the sports facilities portion of Duke Forward, has decided to stay at Duke and spoke with The Chronicle's Andrew Beaton about his decision, time at the University and current projects.
The Chronicle: How did you come to the decision to stay at Duke?
Mike Cragg: It was through a long process. For me, this was the first time I ever interviewed off campus for a position outside of when I first came to Duke in 1987. Part of that was the experience of discovery and knowing I want to be an athletic director, which I know now and I thought I did before. As I evaluated where that could lead us, and also where we currently are as a family, I just felt at the end we’re at a great place. We love it here. We’ve been here a long time, and it’s our home.
Rice definitely had a lot of great things going for it. A lot of student-athletes, a quality education and a lot of attributes for why you’d consider going there that I believe in at Duke. At the end of the day it was best for us to stay here.
TC: Did you see any similarities between Rice and Duke as schools that pride themselves on their academics?
MC: It’s definitely about the student-athlete experience, something that I believe in and was taught at the beginning. When you make decisions every day for your job, whatever that is—fundraising, facilities or you name it—you should always make your decision on what’s best for the student athletes. It’s certainly something Rice believes in and I think I could’ve brought that to them there. It’s something I live by every day and something the people in our athletic department live by every day.
TC: Can you talk about interviewing for the Duke athletic director position in 2008 and how that prepared you for opportunities such as this one?
MC: I met with the committee, and it was a great experience but at that point I wasn’t advanced further into it. It was a great beginning of thinking that way. Clearly, at that point the best thing that could have ever happened to Duke is what happened, and that’s having Kevin White be our athletic director. I know five years later that the best thing to ever happen for me was not becoming the AD at Duke, but learning under Kevin. It’s why now going through this process, and being able to articulate what I can do, that I have a great role model in Kevin White—and if I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be nearly as prepared as I think I am and will continue to be here. That’s one of the things that’s appealing to be here is continuing to learn under Kevin.
TC: Did you speak to Dr. White and Coach Krzyzewski at all during the process and did they have any nuggets of advice for you?
MC: I spoke to them immediately. I respect them and their insights, especially in the world of college athletics. Obviously, Kevin’s experiences are the best in the country and so I tapped into that right away.
One of the things that I’m very fortunate to have is great resources of people in the business and people who understand the business, give good guidance and ones who I hold as role models. Coach K and Dr. White were fantastic.
TC: Are those sorts of relationships and people what has kept you at Duke for so long?
MC: Absolutely. It’s all of the people around you, starting with the student-athletes. The quality of people at our university. One of the things I discovered through this process and interviewing and being on campus with the administration at Rice is that you look at our own situation, and the people we are fortunate enough to work with like Dr. Brodhead, Tallman Trask, Michael Schoenfeld, Kyle Cavanaugh, Paul Manning, John Noonan—it’s those special relationships.
We’re just around great, great people and you can tend to take that for granted, to be quite honest with you, after being here for 26 years.
TC: While some of your biggest accomplishments have come with running fundraising and operations of the men’s basketball team, how has your work with the facilities end of Duke Forward built on that experience?
MC: That is something that when Kevin came to me and put me in charge of overseeing our planning and strategy for facilities and we put that into a manageable $100 million facilities upgrade that touches all 26 sports, what that’s allowed me to do is work with all of our coaches—every single one of them.
It would’ve been very weird to walk away from that right now as we start to go through the next five years that will transform athletics on campus. It would’ve been weird to not be in the middle of figuring that out and making it great and celebrating that we’ve come a long way.
TC: Is there an update on when the renovations to Wallace Wade and Cameron Indoor Stadium may begin?
MC: We’re working on that. The dominoes have started, the practice facilities look like they’ll be done all the way in November. Once that gets done, the field behind Koskinen will be torn up and we’re going to redo parts of Koskinen with new bleachers and a new tower that will serve that and track.
Really, over the course of the next three football seasons, we’ll have almost constant work going on that we’re trying to put all those pieces together. As that unfolds then Cameron and Scott Pavillion will start cooking up as well. So the spring of 2015 is when we’ll have a massive dirt pile.
TC: So will the Class of 2014 be graduating in Wallace Wade?
MC: The plan is that the graduating class of 2014 will be graduating in Wallace Wade.
TC: And after that it’s unclear?
MC: We may have a one-year hiatus in there. We’re going to figure that out. Our goal would be to never lose it, but if we do we’ll come up with something better.