Kyle Spencer, Sports Editor, @kyledspencer
When Mike Jacobsen announced that he would step down this summer, President Holland faced the challenge of filling the shoes of a leader that had guided a small trade school from athletic irrelevance to the Western Athletic Conference. After a lengthy interview process that included formal presentations from the four finalists selected from the original list of 80 hopefuls, he selected Vince Otoupal as athletic director to succeed the revolutionary Jacobsen.
“Vince Otoupal brings a dynamic blend of personal energy and extensive leadership experience from a variety of institutions with top-flight athletic and academic programs,” said President Holland. “Such a combination is just what UVU needs right now, especially as we move into the Western Athletic Conference and seek to raise the level of our game across every sport we play.”
The announcement signaled the beginning of a new era at UVU, one where the dream of competing for a national championship isn’t merely at the mercy of a selection committee. The introduction of the Seattle, Wash. native Otoupal fills the void left by Jacobsen with a well-qualified professional that personifies the toughness he learned as a devil dog. For the past four years Otoupal held the same position that he will officially inherit next month at California State University Monterey Bay. Before CSUMB, Otoupal was able to acquaint himself with the WAC as he served for three years as athletic administrator at San Jose St. Other bullets on his résumé range from achieving four year-letterman status as a college football player at Stanford, to becoming an officer in the Marine Corps, and returning to his alma mater to work in various capacities within the athletic department.
“Athletics is a small world and people talk,” Otoupal said. “When there’s really good opportunities like the one at UVU, you are encouraged to apply. Watching what Mike Jacobsen has done and what President Holland’s vision is for the university and for athletics, I got continually more and more excited and interested in the opportunity. The more people I got to know that are at the university – the coaches and some of the student-athletes – the more I saw that it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
The excitement that the new face of Wolverine athletics feels regarding his role as director is contagious as he sheds light on his plans for the future. His time as a player under the legendary Bill Walsh taught him to dream big and equipped him with administrative knowledge of how to obtain desired results.
“I am going to try and share with UVU and Wolverine athletics some of the lessons of coach Walsh,” said Otoupal. “He was my coach and also my mentor. One of them is to value the people who are around you. They’re the ones that you’re focused on. Whether it’s your student-athletes or your assistant coaches or the people you are supposed to take care of.”
It may simply be a coincidence that Otoupal takes the reins just months before UVU begins its time in an automatic qualifying conference, but the ability to compete for Division I national championships definitely added appeal to the job opening.
“It’s huge,” Otoupal responded when asked about the importance of joining the WAC. “It sets up new challenges and new opportunities in front of our coaches and student-athletes. With those great challenges comes great reward. We’re going to have the opportunity to win championships and be recognized on a different level and on a different scale for our academics.”
First he must secure housing in order to finalize his family’s move to the friendly confines of happy valley, but Otoupal is eager to start his work in developing an athletic program that constantly inspires current students, alumni and future Wolverines to take pride in its accomplishments. In Jacobsen’s earlier years on the job, the school was simply a technical college and had only five sports teams. Otoupal will manage a department that consists of 16 athletic programs. Due to his athletic pedigree the repetitive football question will undoubtedly arise during his tenure, yet Otoupal remains adamant that the present state of UVU athletics is how it ought to be.
“The sports that we have now are our focus,” Otoupal answered, not yet weary of the inquiry. “As we enter the WAC, we continue to move forward with our sports. The sports we have now are the right ones for UVU.”
While every UVU athletic supporter would rejoice at the announcement of a Wolverine football team, the bond between a loyal fan and his or her team is forged through the belief that greatness is attainable. Under the direction of Vince Otoupal excellence will not be simply an aspiration, but an expectation.