Hickok keeping Wolf Pack right on schedule
Hickok keeping Wolf Pack right on schedule
BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Sports have been a big part of Rory Hickok’s life ever since his three-sport days at Douglas High School.
Even when he worked as a political consultant for the Dolphin Group in Westwood just steps from the UCLA campus in Southern California, he was sending out resumes to various schools and professional sports organizations in the area looking for work in sports management.
Alas, he got no offers.
Their loss has been the University of Nevada’s gain. Hickok has been with the University of Nevada for eight years, and currently serves as the associate athletic director for external operations.
In layman’s terms, external operations means Hickok raises funds for the university and also works with marketing.
“I always wanted to get into sports – the sports management aspect of it,” Hickok said Sunday while watching the Nevada men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader. “I want to be an athletic director someday whether it’s here or elsewhere.”
His current boss, Nevada athletic director Cary Groth, said he has the qualities needed to be No. 1 at some school.
“He wants to be an AD, and it’s great,” Groth said. “He’d be wonderful. He needed to get experience. The football component really helps. He has confidence, which is very healthy as you are moving in this direction. He sees the bigger picture of college athletics. He understands the issues. He has great foresight.”
That means more responsibility, and Hickok eagerly picked up some added duties when the football scheduling was turned over to him along with the women’s basketball team.
“As soon as Cary came on, she asked me if I was interested in doing it,” Hickok said. “I hadn’t thought too much about it before then. Cary is so inclusive. She tries to get other individuals involved in a lot of key policy decisions.
“When Cary was brought on board, she really wanted to adopt a new scheduling philosophy (here at Nevada). It worked for her when she was at Northern Illinois.”
Simply put, Groth’s new scheduling philosophy means that Nevada will play a couple of Bowl Championship Series opponents every year.
“If you are going to play 1A football, you have to play 1A teams,” Groth said. “We’re bringing in Grambling, and that’s a special situation. Grambling is bringing its band, and we think it will be a great experience.”
And the quietly confident Hickok has been able to make that happen. He has been able to schedule home-and-home agreements with Northwestern of the Big Ten, and Texas Tech and Missouri, both of the Big 12. With the exception of 2010, Nevada will play two BCS opponents each year. In 2010, Nevada will play three Mountain West Conference schools in lieu of BCS opponents.
It hasn’t been an easy task, however.
“It’s difficult to get them to do a home-and-home,” Hickok said. “Most schools want to do the two-for-one thing, and we’re trying to steer clear of that. Texas Tech wanted a two-for-one. I told Tech that we’d already gotten Missouri to agree to a home-and-home and that they were both in the same conference. When one BCS school agrees, it makes it easier for somebody else.
“We’re being taken a little more seriously now, and that helps in negotiations. A lot of it is timing.”
Hickok said Nevada would continue to look at the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and Mountain West as viable conferences to do home-and-home agreements with.
Hickok said the plan is to stay away from two-for-ones unless the circumstances dictate taking the game. Hickok said that if a UCLA or USC came calling with a two-for-one offer he would listen. The upside with either school is that Southern California is an area where Nevada has had some good success recruiting.
“Our No. 1 priority is home-and-home agreements,” Hickok said. “We’ll look from time to time at guarantee games.”
Nevada currently has two guarantee games on its schedule – 2009 at Notre Dame and 2012 at Florida State. Originally, the Florida State game was supposed to be played before the Notre Dame game, but the contest was moved out to help Nevada fill some home-and-home dates.
While Hickok has gotten off to a fine start in his new venture, he doesn’t take all the credit. He calls it a collaborative effort with Groth and head football coach Chris Ault.
“Coach Ault has been great,” Hickok said. “He’s been very receptive. He deserves credit. He’s been very much involved in it. Cary and I will be talking, and if we’re in discussion for a potential game we’ll give coach Ault a heads-up and get his thoughts on it. He’ll give us the pros and cons from his view.”
In some respects, Hickok is walking a tightrope, though. Nevada fans are fickle, and he has the arduous task of scheduling teams that will put butts in the seats and at the same time win games and go to bowls each year.
“We’ve got to be competitive, and I think we will be,” Groth said. “Hopefully we made the right call. It’s all about timing.”
Hickok said the fans’ thoughts are important and that the philosophy was adopted with fan involvement in mind.
Nevada fans are a funny group, however. People won’t show because Nevada is playing Nicholls State or Idaho or because the team doesn’t have a good record.
Well, one team Nevada has control over, and one it doesn’t. People should judge Nevada only on what it can control.
If Texas Tech and Missouri come in during the same nonconference season, it could be tough to grab wins, and if the Pack can’t grab two or three wins in nonconference play, it puts a lot of pressure on the team once it gets to conference.
And getting Big 12 and Big Ten teams in here is a good thing, win or lose. Hickok knows it, and hopefully the people in Northern Nevada do too.
Hickok keeps plugging away, because scheduling football is a never-ending process. The entire 2009 schedule is signed, sealed and delivered, and Hickok would like nothing more than to finish up some other years, and continue putting his stamp on this program.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE HICKOK FILE
Position: Associate Athletic Director
Years at Nevada: 8
Education: Graduated in 1978 from Douglas High School and in 1983 from University of California-Davis
Family: Wife (Jennifer) and 4 kids (Brandon, 20; Erica, 18; Derek, 16; Jamison, 11)