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Published: Sunday, 8/22/2004

Rocket AD needs to put on sales hat

Love him or hate him, you always knew what Pete Liske, former athletic director at the University of Toledo, stood for.

Liske, who played quarterback in the NFL, was a huge supporter of UT football.

Liske pushed for the growth of Rocket football at the expense of other sports, but at least he stood for something.

No one enjoyed Toledo's 24-6 dismantling of Penn State in 2000 more than Liske. His passion for UT football was needed at a time when the program was just beginning to receive a sliver of the national acclaim it had long deserved.

Current Toledo athletic director Michael O'Brien is the antithesis of Liske.

O'Brien isn't a rah-rah type. He doesn't display his emotions publicly. You never know what he's thinking. He'd make a great poker player.

Big things are expected from UT football and men's basketball this year.

The Rocket football team has Top 25 potential, was selected by the media to win the Mid-American Conference and features talented quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. The Rocket basketball team is expected to contend for the MAC title and features Toledo native Keith Triplett.

Those are things worth bragging about. UT has one of the best athletic programs in the MAC.

If Liske were still here, he'd talk himself hoarse about the football team. And we'd listen. Liske had the ability, the passion, to make us believe.

We need to know what O'Brien's thinking. Not all the time. But at least some of the time.

We need to know what he thinks about the upcoming football season, and how this could be a year to remember for Toledo's entire athletic program.

We definitely need more updates about the feasibility study regarding the possible renovation of Savage Hall. O'Brien has been hanging his hat on that feasibility study since replacing interim athletic director Mike Karabin in January 2002.

Is the study complete? If not, when will it be finalized? If it is complete, what were the findings?

Does UT have the funds necessary for renovations to make Savage Hall competitive with other MAC facilities?

If additional funds are required, what's O'Brien's gameplan? Does he even have one?

Are the Rockets, as president Daniel Johnson suggested earlier this year, still contemplating playing home basketball games in a new, off-campus arena - either downtown or in the Marina District?

Has O'Brien, who publicly favored the Rockets remaining on campus, altered his views to be more in line with those of his boss?

What's the status of the on-campus, multipurpose indoor practice facility? When will the university break ground on that project? Is it a legitimate endeavor?

An important function of O'Brien's job description is fund-raiser. UT is cash-strapped, which means the athletic department must be self-sufficient. Johnson hired O'Brien, in part, because of his reputation as a fund-raiser at Kansas State.

O'Brien has been on the job long enough to whip up public sentiment and generate financial support on behalf of the Rockets. His excitement must be contagious if he expects to seriously promote UT athletics.



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