By Vince Frieden
Associate Director, Development Communications
This Q&A initially appeared in the summer 2013 edition of the Miami University Giving Tribute.
When David Sayler was offered the chance to become the 16th director of intercollegiate athletics at Miami University, he considered the decision a no-brainer.
Sayler, whose first contact with Miami was attending a basketball camp during his high school years, says he has always admired the University, and that sentiment has only grown during his first six months on campus.
The Ohio Wesleyan graduate comes to Miami after serving as director of athletics at the University of South Dakota, which recently completed the transition to NCAA Division I status. His extensive experience in intercollegiate athletics administration also includes time at Rice University, Oregon State University and Bowling Green State University. Sayler recently sat down to discuss his observations of and vision for Miami Athletics.
Q: What is your role as the director of intercollegiate athletics at Miami?
A: I see my role as maintaining the standard of academic excellence that Miami is known for while also growing the department’s revenue stream to support an even stronger student-athlete experience. Athletics is a front porch for a university, and I want to see more championship trophies on Miami’s front porch. We need to start winning more, particularly in football and men’s and women’s basketball.
Q: What are the key strengths Miami can build on?
A: We have a great alumni base. That Miami degree means something, and those who have gone on from this place and found success remain committed to the University and invested in its continued excellence. We also have a strong brand that reflects both the quality of our institution and the rich history of our athletic programs.
Q: What are the key challenges facing Miami Athletics?
A: One thing that really surprised me is that there are more than 400 student groups at Miami, and getting students to focus on any one thing is a challenge. We need to do a better job of engaging students and making Miami Athletics a more prominent part of their experience. We also need to sell more tickets. Growing our revenue stream and then capitalizing on that growth is a key short-term challenge.
Q: Why is fundraising so critical for Miami Athletics today?
A: Miami’s athletic facilities are lagging not only behind our peers nationally but also in comparison to our competitors in the MAC. When we bring recruits to campus, we want our facilities to reflect our commitment to the student-athlete experience and our vision for where Miami Athletics is going. This can happen very quickly with donor involvement, and that success in recruiting translates to winning.
Q: What are the funding priorities for Miami Athletics?
A: We have recently completed a facilities master plan that is focused on seven critical projects. At the end of the day, the scope of these projects will benefit all of Miami’s athletic programs. We are currently in a silent phase of this effort, and I’m visiting key donors and sharing that vision. It’s exciting being able to show them what we are planning, and the early indications are very positive. I’m looking forward to sharing more of this vision with all of our alumni and friends.
Q: What do you want to be able to say about Miami Athletics five years from now?
A: We want to be able to say that we have provided our student-athletes the best possible experience. We want to say that we have successfully executed a fundraising campaign that has raised crucial dollars for scholarships and facilities. We also want to be relevant on the national scene. We want to be qualifying and advancing in the NCAA tournament as well as winning bowl games. Maybe that’s ambitious, but it’s the only way I know. You put that vision out there, and every morning you get up and decide what you’re going to do to get there.