In May, West Bank native Derek Morel returned home to help promote Privateer pride and re-establish the University of New Orleans as a premier NCAA Division I athletic program. Morel brings a wealth of leadership experience from several universities — he most recently served as vice president and general manager of Wake Forest IMG Sports Marketing in Winston-Salem, NC. He wants a spirit of achievement to permeate the entire Privateer athletic department.
What is your vision for the future of the New Orleans Privateers?
As President Fos has articulated on many occasions, we expect to be great in everything we do. In line with that philosophy, we expect our student-athletes to achieve excellence in the classroom, in competition and in the community. Our coaches and student-athletes understand that to be as great as we can be, we must possess a positive attitude and positive energy each and every day.
We are committed to our responsibility within the overall mission of the University. With that, we embrace the athletic department’s role as a foremost marketing asset for the University of New Orleans. When Division I intercollegiate athletics are successful and operate at a high level, the University is the beneficiary and, consequently, will experience a rise in prospective student interest, enrollment, development and alumni support. As for our Division I intercollegiate athletics program in particular, we expect to be a highly competitive member of the Southland Conference and to win championships. While our facilities are solid, we will continue to explore improvements and additions in order to provide our student-athletes with the resources to develop as students, athletes and citizens. We will reposition ourselves as an attractive entertainment option for alumni, faculty, staff, students and the people of our great city. We will continue to employ great people with strong character who are fulfilled by the successful development of our student-athletes and driven to build championship programs at the University of New Orleans. We will continue to expand our brand and broaden awareness of the New Orleans Privateers.
What is the future of Division I football at UNO?
I field that question often. The Southland Conference has established that football is a priority in the league. They encourage us to closely evaluate this opportunity in the future. While football at the Football Championship Subdivision level is a financially challenging program to manage, we concur that Division I football would be a great addition and can bring tremendous benefit to the university. Division I football is in our long-term vision and part of the plan as we move forward.
President Fos has clearly communicated his vision to increase standards, grow enrollment, diversify our degree programs and accept nothing less than continued advancement of the University of New Orleans. We are committed to his timeline for this vision and will certainly work in close collaboration with institutional leadership to make football a reality when we are best positioned to make it great.
What are some of your immediate goals and objectives to improving the student-athlete experience?
The welfare of our student-athletes is a top priority. With that in mind, we are committed to providing our student-athletes with a superb experience at the University of New Orleans. For us to achieve expected levels of excellence in the classroom, the community and in competition, we must advance the resources afforded to these young women and young men. This means upgrading our student-athlete enrichment areas, including academic support, life skills programming and community outreach. It also requires a commitment to their physical preparation and safety through the advancement of our strength and conditioning and sports medicine programs. It is our obligation as coaches and administrators to prepare our student-athletes for a prosperous and fulfilling life after graduation from the University of New Orleans. Furthermore, we recognize that our program will continue to grow and succeed in the future with these graduates as ambassadors of UNO and Privateer athletics.
How does being in the Southland Conference help the athletic department?
Our membership in the Southland Conference makes sense on so many levels. First, it gives our program an identity. It is so challenging to be a Division I independent especially in recent times. We are now in a family with like institutions who share similar challenges to the University of New Orleans. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity to align with one of the nation’s most well-rooted Division I conferences and expect to be a highly competitive member in all of our intercollegiate sports. We expect to compete for and win championships in the Southland Conference.
Will UNO be in position to host Southland Conference championship events?
We are very proud of our facilities and our city as a host for the greatest sporting events in the world. It is our expectation that we will have the opportunity to host Southland Conference championships in some sports in the future. It would be a great fit for everyone.
Beyond the baseball stadium project, are there any other facility enhancements that fans can expect to see?
We are always considering new ways to enhance our existing facilities and plan for new facilities in the future. For us to grow as a program and a university, it is imperative that we continually look to upgrade our facility whether through renovation or new construction. The market for students is very competitive. Students in the year 2012 expect great facilities…from dormitories to research laboratories to the rec center. Prospective student-athletes want to know they can train and compete in great facilities with modern amenities. We understand prospective student-athletes consider quality of facilities when selecting their respective universities. There are many needs and desires and we need private support to help us bring these projects to the forefront. Without people who care and can invest in the advancement of the University of New Orleans and Privateer athletics, it will be a challenge to “build” our program into one which is highly-competitive and regularly successful.