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SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40
Published November 10, 2003
After two years as an accountant at Arthur Andersen, Jamie Pollard knew he wasn't cut out for a life of crunching numbers.
"I knew my passion wasn't there," Pollard said.
As a result, he left the company and decided to get into college athletics — either by first attending grad school for sports management or by finding a job as a coach for cross country, the sport he participated in while attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
But as luck would have it, Pollard, while perusing The NCAA News, saw there was an opening in Saint Louis University's athletic department for a business manager. He applied, got the job and found his passion.
Being in the right place at the right time is something Pollard believes helped him get to where he is now — running a $55 million, 23-sport athletic program as Wisconsin's deputy athletic director.
The timing of the Saint Louis job, for example, gave him the opportunity to work under and learn from Deborah Yow, who is considered one of the best athletic directors in the country.
"I wouldn't be here today at Wisconsin if Debbie didn't come in and take that [Saint Louis] job," he said of Yow's arrival at Saint Louis in 1990, one year after he started working there.
"You learn from her things you didn't even know you were learning when you were doing it. Quite frankly, I used to think, 'This is weird,' when I was doing some things. Years later, though, I get it. It was about work ethic, passion and not cutting corners."
Pollard later joined Yow at Maryland in 1994.
His success in helping Yow turn around Maryland's athletic department, which was in significant debt when they joined the department, eventually caught the eye of Wisconsin Athletic Director Pat Richter, who hired Pollard in 1998.
Originally hired as the department's CFO to help develop a long-term financial plan to keep the department in the black, Pollard kept piling on responsibilities as he demonstrated his ability to handle many and different tasks, said Richter, who will retire at the end of this school year.
Earlier this year, Wisconsin football coach and incoming AD Barry Alvarez put his administration in place and named Pollard deputy athletic director.
"When I was first approached by the chancellor to take this position, the only way I felt it was possible was if I had a very strong deputy, someone who I could trust, someone who has a very good pulse of what's going on and someone who's been effective in the past," Alvarez said. "There was only one guy that came to mind and that was Jamie."
Pollard, in addition to the department's finances, is now in charge of the day-to-day administration of the department, which employs a full-time staff of 250. He directly supervises other members of the department's senior management team, oversees fund raising for capital projects such as the $83.7 million renovation of Camp Randall Stadium, and attends Big Ten Conference meetings and other campus meetings with the various deans and the chancellor.
As deputy AD, Pollard will serve as acting AD when Alvarez isn't available.
"As I've told my other senior staff, if I'm tied up with football, Jamie is the acting AD," Alvarez said. "His decisions and his leadership is the same as mine if I'm not available."
In addition to his duties at Wisconsin, which take up most of his time, Pollard runs a side business called Collegiate Financial Services.
The company, in its fifth year, provides athletic departments and conferences customized financial reports and salary information that help programs benchmark themselves against others across the country. The information is gleaned each year from financial information filed by schools according to the government's Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act.
In addition Pollard, by assuring confidentiality to each reporting school, is able to gather more specific athletic department financial info such as revenue generated from football ticket sales, or the amount of state or institutional support received by a program.