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Brandon E. Martin: Defying the odds

When Dr. Brandon E. Martin assumed his position as the new athletic director of Cal State Northridge’s (CSUN) in April, he became a member of an elite group of African Americans.

According to the 2011-12 College Racial and Gender Report Card from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, African Americans only hold about 6.3 percent of the athletic director positions at universities in the nation.

Martin will be responsible for the university’s NCAA Division I AAA athletic program that includes a $11.4 million budget and about 380 student athletes in eight men’s and 11 women’s  intercollegiate programs.

In essence, Martin has defied the odds and broken the athletic glass ceiling to sit at the helm of a Division I athletic department. Breaking through to this level of success comes with Jackie Robinson-style pressures and obstacles. But Martin is winning over the university and the community with his comprehensive excellence agenda.

“Number one is academic success for our student athletes,” said Martin. “We added additional tutors, academic advisors, and provided more tools to build a mindset of excellent where everyone is competing for success.”

To further strengthen his “championship culture,” Martin hired three new game-changing coaches.

“I set the goal to position CSUN athletics to be a national program,” said Martin.  “When you talk about positioning a program to be in the top 100 nationally, it has to start with the coaches.”

Martin’s new coaches sound like a dream team.

Head Men’s Basketball Coach Reggie Theus is a former NBA player and a “proven winner” at the college level. “He’s a great fit for our department,” said Martin.

Head Baseball Coach Greg Moore is rated one of the top 10 assistant baseball coaches in the country, said Martin.

Head Women’s Golf Coach Gina Umeck played on the 2003 Women’s Golf Championship at UCLA, said Martin.   “(As soon as) she came in, she got immediate results.  We came in second in the Big West Women’s Golf Championship.”

Another important part of Martin’s championship culture is to impact the community and win their support.

He began by changing the campus infrastructure. Under Martin’s leadership a new soccer plaza and concourse were created which cost $1.2 million dollars in order to have a more appealing venue for the soccer program.

He’s also in the process of renovating the Matadome, the place where the university’s men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams compete. The makeover, which is 90 percent complete will include renovating the east lobby entrance, the trophy case and placing the school theme “Matadors on the Blacktop” on the floor to build school pride.

“I want to bring the best experience to the athletes, students, fans and community,” said Martin.  “My goal is be the third program in L.A. after USC and UCLA and first in the San Fernando Valley,” added Martin who has attracted approximately $1 million in pledges for his department.

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