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UC Irvine Hires Tom Ford, Ex-Houston Athletic Director

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tom Ford stepped up to accept his Anteater lapel pin Monday at UC Irvine, accepting with it the job of athletic director, which has been vacant for more than six months.

“A friend said to me that the first thing I needed to do was to change the logo. Who wants to be an Anteater?” Ford said.

He does.

“The Anteater is absolutely a great marketing item,” Ford said.

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Experience in fund raising was one of the key issues in Irvine’s search, and Ford discussed it as one of his early priorities, along with evaluating the direction of the program and filling vacant positions in the department, including the jobs of fund-raiser and business manager.

Calling the need for fund-raising goals “critical,” Ford said he would move to set up an annual campaign and seek endowments for some athletic scholarships. He also said he would develop a capital campaign for improving facilities, among them the school’s small pool and crowded weight-training facility, which he termed “woefully inadequate for intercollegiate athletics.”

Ford, 48, formerly athletic director at the University of Houston, replaces John Caine, who was reassigned as a special assistant to the chancellor in September after six years as athletic director.

Irvine’s athletic department had been running at a deficit for at least six years when Chancellor Jack Peltason and advisers decided last fall to shift control of athletics from academic affairs to student affairs, dictating that the budget must be balanced.

Horace Mitchell, vice chancellor for student affairs, has since served as acting athletic director.

“Tom has a record of integrity in college athletics, successful fund raising and fiscal responsibility,” Mitchell said, when introducing Ford.

Ford resigned at Houston in 1986 after two years as athletic director and five years in other capacities at the school. According to Ford and newspaper accounts, he resigned because he disagreed with the university’s handling of an investigation into alleged NCAA violations involving improper payments to football players under Coach Bill Yeoman.

“I visited with the chancellor (Richard Van Horn) and learned that the school’s thinking about the way the investigation was going to go was different from mine,” Ford said. “In my career I didn’t feel I could do anything that was not appropriate for the integrity of the institution. I visited with him and gave him a letter of resignation.” Houston was placed on NCAA probation for three years in December 1988, and the school’s 9-2 football team was prohibited from playing a bowl game last season.

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A selection of Ford’s remarks Monday:

On football, which Irvine does not sponsor: “Football is an important part of a major intercollegiate athletic program. However, at this point in time, there is much to concentrate on in improving the sports currently being offered. . . . I believe as the university grows, (football) could be an important part of the intercollegiate athletic program. I wouldn’t see it in the near future.”

On his athletic career:

“I had a lot of desire and little skill in several sports.” Ford played in the 1959 Potato Bowl at Bakersfield for the Phoenix Community College football team. “I coached Little League. I love to play golf.”

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On winning: “Winning is important in several respects.” Ford pointed to NCAA basketball tournament revenue and ticket revenue from increased attendance. “I place a great deal of emphasis on winning, although there has to be a point at which you evaluate the resources in comparison with those of the teams you compete against. . . . The academic integrity of the institution cannot be compromised in order to have a winning athletic program.”

After resigning at Houston, Ford worked for Raycom, Inc., as a negotiator of college sports television packages for two years. He also has worked for a consulting firm specializing in college athletics and, for the past year, he has been an administrator with the University of Arizona’s Extended University in Phoenix.

Ford and his wife, Judy, have three children--Scott, 25, Julie, 24, and Jill, who is a high school freshman.


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