By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The most successful move by the Arizona athletics department over spring break was not the men's basketball team's trek to its fourth Sweet 16 in the last five years.
It was not swimmers Marshi Smith's and Emilly Mason's NCAA titles in the 100-yard backstroke and 100y freestyle.
It wasn't even the women's basketball team's jump to the second round for the first time in five years.
In fact, the best thing to happen to the Wildcats didn't even happen on the field.
The Arizona Board of Regents approved the contract extension of Arizona Athletics Director Jim Livengood through 2010 and ensured the status of Arizona Athletics for at least the next five years.
The board increased Livengood's base salary by $25,000 a year, a small price to pay for a man who's built Arizona Athletics into one of the nation's elite over the last 11 years.
During the regents' meeting March 11, President Peter Likins was asked if he had anything he'd like to say about Livengood.
"How much time do we have?" he asked.
Likins went on complementing Livengood for several minutes, noting all the successes he has had in his time in Tucson.
The feelings of the university's president were echoed across the board in the athletic department with coaches, athletes and employees praising Livengood for all he has done.
Head baseball coach Andy Lopez said that when he was being courted by his alma mater UCLA to be the Bruins' head coach last season, it was the presence of Livengood that kept him a Wildcat.
"If Jim wasn't here, I'd probably be at UCLA," said Lopez, who has coached at four different schools and who said that Livengood is the best athletic director he's worked under.
Head women's basketball coach Joan Bonvicini praised Livengood for the work he's done in creating and improving the athletic facilities on campus.
The most recognizable effort by Livengood and the athletics department came in 2002 as part "Campaign Arizona for the Student-Athlete" when the department raised $14 million to build the Eddie Lynch Athletics Pavilion, which is just north of McKale Center, and includes a strength and conditioning facility, medical services centers and the Arizona Athletics Hall of Fame.
This has been a key recruiting tool for the Wildcats in every sport.
Livengood has also played a huge role in updating women's locker room facilities and adding academic workstations and computer labs for athletes.
The effect Livengood has had on the Wildcats' athletics program has not only been a structural one, but the teams have performed on the field too.
In his 11 years, the Wildcats have won seven team national titles, including four in softball, two in women's golf and one in men's basketball.
Add that to a consistent top-10 finish in the Sears Director's Cup standings, Livengood has made Arizona a national powerhouse and a big lure for quality coaches and athletes.
Besides the benefits for the university that Livengood brings, the Tucson community has also been impacted.
Livengood was named Tucson's 2004 Man of the Year by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce for his work with the Jim and Linda Livengood Toys for Tots Golf Tournament, the Tucson Boys' Chorus, the Humane Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the United Way.
Several other schools have seen the work Livengood has done with Arizona and tried to lure him away, but so far he has stayed loyal to the Wildcats and if Likins has his way, he will end his career here.
That should please any Wildcat fan.