PULLMAN — Pat Chun is bullish on Washington State’s athletic programs, the athletic department just set a record for yearly fundraising and he and his family are quite happy in Pullman.
It’s no wonder then that Chun, WSU’s athletic director, said he is content in his job despite his name coming up in discussions of several athletic director openings the past couple of years — including most recently at Kansas and Northwestern.
In May, Chun signed an extension through 2026 with WSU.
“Absolutely,” Chun said when asked if he was happy at WSU. “My oldest (child) is a junior in high school here, and I think for everyone who knows me and my wife, Natalie, we are motivated about the parents we are more than anything else. It’s been documented before I took the job that Dr. Kirk Schultz may be the best president to work for in terms of being an athletic director, and he has exceeded that hype.
“In terms of where we are at as an institution, the amount of stability and leadership we have, the amount of forward thinking we have, it’s a pretty special time at Washington State.”
The Washington State athletic department fundraising didn’t stop because of a pandemic, and it became perhaps more important after a year without any fans at football games. So it was big news when the department announced recently that it set a school record by raising more than $30 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year that concluded June 30.
“Even in a pandemic, our supporters gave at higher levels,” Chun said. “We are doubling what we did prior to our arrival, which is a testament more to our alumni, donors and supporters than any of us.”
The budget woes of the WSU athletic department have been well documented, and the pandemic certainly didn’t help. It has been reported that the department is more than $120 million in debt.
“We’ve had our budgetary challenges, but we have a pathway now, and every year we get closer to operating in the black and out of debt,” Chun said.
A return to a normal year in sports would definitely help.
“We’re in a functional place from a budget standpoint, but we need to play football games with people in the stands, and men’s and women’s basketball for that matter,” Chun said. “We still have a hurdle this year, and that’s attendance, but right now we’re trending toward a full stadium for our (football) opener (Sept. 4).”
Chun said he is “very optimistic about the football team, more because of the quality of the young men coming back.”
“In my three years here, this is arguably the deepest team we have had and the most talented team we have had,” Chun said. “For any championship team I’ve been a part of, it’s the will and willingness to get better every single day, every practice, every academic opportunity, every weightlifting opportunity, and to date this team seems to have that DNA where they are willing to improve and do what they need to do to get better every day.
“Some things are going to have to break our way, but everything is in place to accomplish all the goals the team sets for itself.”
Several other WSU athletic programs seem primed for success, including the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
“When you put things on paper, I am one who thinks this could be one of those special years in Washington State history, but I also know a lot goes into that,” Chun said. “The ball is going to have to bounce our way, but we have a lot of pieces in place. … We are loaded on a lot of different teams.”