On July 1, Martin Jarmond began his tenure as UCLA’s ninth athletic director, inheriting the program Dan Guerrero led for 18 years. Jarmond was previously the athletic director of Boston College (2017-2020), and prior to that served as deputy director of athletics at Ohio State University (2009-2017) and associate athletic director at Michigan State University (2003-2009). He’s starting this role at a highly unusual time for UCLA and college athletic programs, which are facing the challenges of budget shortfalls, pandemic safety and the impact of social justice issues on student-athletes. He addressed these questions and more in a recent Q&A.
1. Why was UCLA the right fit for you?
The opportunity to lead the athletics program at UCLA was just something I couldn’t pass up. The four letters are known worldwide. The combination of athletic and academic excellence is rare. The history and tradition are elite. So, to have the chance to help move the program forward into the future is an honor.
2. You recently visited the campus for the first time. What’s your impression of the UCLA campus, Los Angeles and all the Bruins you’ve met thus far?
Bruins everywhere have been so welcoming and gracious to me and my family. I couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception. Campus is beautiful. It was much greener than I expected it to be, and everywhere you look there is incredible architecture and intricate brickwork. It really took my breath away. As far as Los Angeles, I haven’t had a chance to explore much yet, outside of house hunting and a few trips to the beach but people keep telling me I can’t trust my impression during the pandemic. The 405 isn’t as bad as I’ve heard, but everyone tells me to just wait for the traffic to get back to normal. I’m not looking forward to that.
3. What are your top priorities in your first six months as athletic director?
My priorities are to listen and to learn and that’s what I’ve been focused on. It’s been eye-opening to meet (via Zoom) so many people who care about athletics, from alumni and donors to faculty and staff across campus. From every meeting, I’ve taken away some bit of information that I know will serve me going forward.
4. You’re starting this role at a highly unusual and challenging time, especially with the postponement of fall sports. What message do you have for the student-athletes who want to play, the parents worried about their player’s health/safety, the staff/coaches who may be concerned about their future employment, and fans who are frustrated at not having Bruin sports this fall?
I feel for our student-athletes who work so hard to play the sport they love and have had their seasons postponed. I understand their disappointment, but throughout the pandemic, every decision UCLA has made has been – and will continue to be – guided by our priority of safety of the entire Bruin community. That is the North Star that campus leadership has identified, and there’s nothing more important than that. It’s a challenging time, but we are going to get through it together. That’s my message to our department, to our student-athletes and to our entire community – stay positive, check in with each other and control what we can control. We will see it through.
(Note: On Sept. 24, Jarmond issued this statement
after the Pac-12 announced the resumption of football, basketball and winter sports beginning in November.)
5. Athletics, perhaps more than any other UCLA department, will experience a sizable revenue loss and budget shortfall. Are there ideas, strategies, plans being discussed on how to mitigate the anticipated financial impact?
There’s no doubt there will be a significant financial impact. We are not unique in what we are facing; schools across the conference and the country are in similar positions. We don’t know yet what the full picture is going to look like, but it’s a challenge we will work with campus to face head on. We certainly welcome and appreciate the help of our loyal fans and alumni. The most immediate and impactful way the Bruin family can help us support our student-athletes through this challenge is via the Bruin Support Program
, by joining or renewing their Wooden Athletic Fund membership.
6. UCLA alumni and fans have been spoiled with a strong legacy of championships and hall of fame athletes. Yet, in recent years, the marquee football and basketball programs have struggled. What do you think will get us back on track to having winning programs in both football and basketball once again?
One thing I have learned in my short time here is that UCLA is elite. The storied tradition of legends and barrier breakers – on and off the field – is unparalleled. It’s what defines UCLA. Championships are won here and Champions are Made Here. I understand how important it is for the football and men’s basketball programs to be firing on all cylinders – not only for those programs, but because they drive much of the revenue that supports our 23 other sports. I need to get to know the coaches and their programs, build relationships and find out what they need from me and from the department to help them be successful.
7. In your opinion, is it more important for the football program to beat USC and have a losing season, or have a winning season and lose to our rival? Why?
Where’s the option to beat USC and have a winning season?
8. Social justice issues are at the forefront of the national conversation and many forms of protest are playing out in sports, whether it’s athletes expressing words of empowerment on their jerseys, kneeling during the anthem or abstaining from playing at all. How will you address these forms of expression from UCLA student-athletes when they arise?
I am supportive of our student-athletes using their voices and their platforms. We educate and develop young people to help them reach their maximum potential – that’s what college and college athletics are all about. So, for me, each day brings a new opportunity to communicate with each other, and to learn and grow. As I mentioned above, UCLA has a rich tradition of barrier breakers – of student-athletes who were vocal about issues of social justice and went on to change their communities and the world. To me, we have a responsibility to uphold that legacy.
9. Hiring and firing coaches are two of the most critiqued duties of an athletic director. What criteria do you employ in both of these responsibilities to help you with your decision-making?
There are many factors and guiding principles I use to evaluate job performance – too many to list. My expectation of our coaches is to operate with integrity, recruit and develop the very best students, molding and helping them become the best version of themselves academically, athletically and socially. It’s a holistic approach to developing young people while competing for championships.
10. At the end of your career at UCLA, how will you want alumni to remember you?
I’ve never focused on how I want to be remembered because how people remember me isn’t something I can control. I just want to do my best to serve our young people, our staff and our coaches every day with passion and energy, and to make sure we stay true to our commitment to providing a great student-athlete experience.