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Q+A: Former UNLV AD Jim Livengood busy in his retirement

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Sam Morris

UNLV Athletic Director Jim Livengood details the circumstances surrounding his retirement Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

Jim Livengood Retires

UNLV Athletic Director Jim Livengood details the circumstances surrounding his retirement Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Occasionally, it sounds like Jim Livengood doesn’t know what to do with himself.

It’s been one year since Livengood’s departure from the athletic director position at UNLV, and he hasn’t exactly been kicking back. Livengood and his wife, Linda, have homes in both Las Vegas and Tucson, where he was the longtime athletic director at Arizona. When they’re not filling the hours with grandkids, Livengood is sinking his teeth into various projects.

It’s not that he doesn’t know what to do because he’s bored. Most of the time, actually, it’s the opposite. Picking which project to focus on is harder than he thought.

“I’m way busier than I ever anticipated,” Livengood said. “It feels like the year has flown by.”

Livengood, who has many connections in college athletics from years as an athletic director and chairman of the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee, has been a consultant for the Mountain West and other leagues. Recently, a lot of his time has gone to researching the feasibility of hosting several national championships for high school sports.

“I’ve been engaged with a lot of other people, and in a few weeks we’ll present what we’ve found out,” he said. “… It’s really intriguing.”

Although he’s busy, Livengood is still in tune with the Rebels. He said he was thrilled for football coach Bobby Hauck — Livengood’s first hire at UNLV — when he heard about the new Academic Progress Rate calculation. And although Livengood thought South Florida was a good opportunity, he said he wasn’t surprised and was happy for UNLV that basketball coach Dave Rice signed an extension.

“People will see he’s better than he gets credit for,” Livengood said.

One of the benefits of getting away from the day-to-day demands of college athletics is the ability to focus more on the industry’s large issues. The Sun caught up with Livengood to get his big-picture thoughts on the near future of the NCAA, what he’s missed during the past year and whether or not he’ll return to an athletic director’s desk:

On following the O’Bannon vs. NCAA lawsuit …

It’s probably going to be a really hard case for the NCAA to totally win. The punitive costs aren’t the issue. The issue is what are the kinds of costs that were revenue and now won’t be or were expenses and now are going to be different. It’s too simplistic to say if the plaintiffs win we’ll pay the piper and move on. It has far less to do with paying student-athletes and much more to do with how do we treat student-athletes fairly? I’d have a hard time looking at the current model figuring how student-athletes don’t get some piece of the pie. When we go to eight teams in the college football playoff, and it’s a when not an if, that’s going to expand everything. In some ways, you find out a heck of a lot when you follow the money.

On the potential of the power conferences breaking off into their own league …

There’s enough differential between those 65 and those other schools and it will only keep growing. All the things that are coming for the welfare of student-athletes will be great but very divisionary. Year-round training tables, all-day food expenses, things like that. That has the potential to be huge recruiting advantages for schools that can do it. I’m proud of having been part of the Mountain West but we’re heading into a day and age where it’s going to behoove conferences to take a step back and look at who we are, where we are and where we’re going. The money disparity has grown so much, let alone the facilities. It’s going to be really hard to continue to play at that level unless you make the full commitment.

On other financial issues facing college athletics …

The salary escalation has been on us a number of years, but it’s getting to a scary point. I don’t begrudge it at all, but I don’t know how you put the toothpaste back in the tube. It’s not just one coach or a coaching staff.

On the best parts of the previous year …

I’ve really enjoyed time with family because I literally started working full-time in January of 1968. That’s a long time ago. This is the first time I haven’t really worked. It’s different to sometimes control the things I want to do. I’ve enjoyed that I don’t have to be the end result of solving every problem, whether it’s a booster, coach, alum or just somebody angry.

On what he’s missed the most …

I’ve missed the student-athletes and I’ve really missed our staff. I think UNLV is really undervalued with the quality of staff. I have missed that relationship. Having said that, was it the right time? Yes, absolutely. I have zero regrets. I wish I could have done more in that time to help the Rebels, but I have very few regrets.

On attending UNLV events in the past year …

I went to one Mountain West men’s basketball tournament game and I went to the first home football game, but I haven’t gone to any other contests because there’s new leadership and new leadership needs to have its space. I think it’s important when somebody leaves to let people find their own way. I don’t want to be in the position where they’re feeling like I’m around second-guessing them.

On conversations with Rebel fans around town …

Most say, “I wish you were still doing this or that,” which I think is a nice thing for people to say in passing. Fans right now worry about the future. Relationships, especially nationally, are going to be more and more important. I think some are shocked we’re still here. It’s an incredible place to live. I love it.

On the idea of taking another athletic director job …

I’ve had opportunities to go back in and do it and said no every time. That’s somebody else’s gig right now. Now, if someone offered a six-month position? Maybe. I like the ability to be as flexible as I can. When somebody calls, I try to help. Probably too much, at least that’s what my wife says.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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