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Howdeshell sees opportunity with UCM Athletics

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WARRENSBURG — Matt Howdeshell understands there is a foundation in place at the University of Central Missouri.

The institution’s new Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics aims to build upon it while honoring the past and innovating for the future.

“I just see opportunity and potential everywhere at UCM,” Howdeshell told the Star-Journal. “We have a storied tradition, and that goes so much to those who helped build it. But, I know there are ways we can keep what’s worked, but innovate for the future.”

During his introductory press conference Friday, May 12, Howdeshell took time to recognize the efforts of former Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Jerry Hughes and interim Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Kathy Anderson.

He noted relationship building with administrators, coaches, athletes and community members will be key to further understanding UCM Athletics and the opportunities ahead.

“I believe that transparency builds trust, and trust builds transparency in relationships,” Howdeshell said. “I try to operate in as transparent of a manner as I can. I know coming in here and being a quote-unquote outsider, I’m going to have to earn the respect. I look forward to earning the trust and earning the respect and building relationships. Not only with our constituents, but also internally too.”

Howdeshell’s hiring comes in what University of Central Missouri President Roger Best considers to be a transformative period across intercollegiate athletics. NCAA Division II is specifically seeing the impacts of Name, image and likeness and the transfer portal.

Best launched a search process for the next Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics on March 6, appointing a committee led by Provost Phil Bridgmon.

It also included Lindsay Chapman, General Counsel, Committee Vice Chair; Lewis Theobald, Head Coach, UCM Women's Soccer; Sydney Lierz, student athlete, UCM Women's Volleyball; Marshall Abney, President and CEO, Central Bank, UCM alumnus and former student-athlete; and Homer Kay, President, UCM Alumni-Foundation Board.

“We knew our next Vice President had to be able to assimilate and plan for UCM to excel in the new and challenging operating environment we are facing,” Best said. “Because, as anyone who knows me is aware, I am not interested in mediocrity. I am not interested in being average. I like to win. We like to win. And although we did not create the current environment for intercollegiate athletics, we remain committed to having a premier athletics program at UCM.”

Howdeshell comes to Central Missouri from a NCAA Division I background at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.

He spent 12 years at NAU, the last seven directly in athletic administrative positions. His current title is Senior Associate Athletic Director for Administration and Capital Projects, a role he has been in since January 2020.

At NAU, Howdeshell manages a staff of more than 70 with a $25 million budget. He also negotiates and manages contracts for athletic partnerships and works directly with high-capacity donors. He has also been involved in the planning process for a five-year vision for NAU athletics along with the school’s NIL policy.

“He has a thorough understanding of the many challenges currently facing intercollegiate athletics as well as the business model needed for athletics success,” Best said. “More importantly, however, he develops and maintains meaningful relationships on and off campus in the advancement of student-athletes and the athletic programs.”

Howdeshell noted the Division II model varies from Division I, though the need for revenue generation overlaps.

“The most relative way that it translates, as I mentioned to President Best during the interview process, I’m drawn to the NCAA Division II model that has a unique balance of athletics, academics and finances,” Howdeshell said. “Our student athletes and our staff are integrated into our campus. Resources are limited, but we still have to win. We still have to win championships. Excellence is still the standard. That’s an area I thrive on personally.”

Howdeshell hails from Cuba, Missouri, which is located northeast of Rolla along Interstate 44.

His wife, Hiliary, grew up in Johnson County. Her father is a retired Air Force Colonel from Whiteman Air Force Base. Matt and Hiliary have three sons: Peter, Benjamin and Max.

“Rarely in our industry do your personal and professional passions align,” Howdeshell said. “That’s exactly what happened here for our family.”

Howdeshell officially steps into the position of Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics on June 19.

“I told President Best during the interview process that one of the things that drew me to the job is his talented coaches and staff and the ability to work from them, learn from them and earn their respect,” Howdeshell said. “I look forward to doing that first and foremost. Secondarily, alumni, donors and friends of UCM. Everyone in the community.

“Together, we can build an athletic department that will inspire Mules and Jennies everywhere. Together we can build an athletic department for the future. Together we can build an athletic department that will be a source of pride for this institution, the Warrensburg community and our Mules and Jennies everywhere.”

Joe Andrews can be reached at 660-747-8123.

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