The Future of Bronco Athletics
SCU’s director of athletics, Renee Baumgartner, discusses what’s in store for Bronco sports.
Now in her second season as Director of Athletics, Renee Baumgartner joined SCU in 2015 with the goal of achieving national recognition for SCU’s athletic programs. A dynamic administrator and former college coach and athlete, Renee brings bold vision, proven experience, and boundless energy to the task. In a recent conversation, Renee celebrated recent accomplishments and discussed what changes lie ahead.
What excites you the most about Santa Clara’s athletic program?
RB: I’m energized by the buy-in from all of our constituencies—whether it’s Father Engh, the trustees, the community, or the alumni. Everybody is really excited about the investment SCU is making to ensure its athletic programs match its academic excellence.
What makes Santa Clara student athletes different from those at other universities?
Our students are committed to both academic and athletic success. In fall quarter, 53% of our student athletes achieved a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, which is unheard of in Division I athletics. Our students not only excel in the classroom, they are competing at a high level.
What improvements or changes would you like to make to the existing athletic facilities?
In many ways, the work has already begun. We have new floor in Leavey Center. We have new locker rooms for men’s and women’s basketball and upgraded locker rooms for other sports, increased operating budgets for all of our programs, and the new Stevens Soccer Training Center to name a few.
Currently, I’m working on a facilities master plan that would include additional upgrades such as creating a formal entrance to the Leavey Center and upgrading coaches’ offices. We anticipate that the plan will be completed in June, and we’re excited to unveil it in the near future.
How do you think athletics enhances student and community engagement here at SCU?
Community engagement is key. Success in athletics can bring our community together and get them excited about something. One of our goals is to be successful so that alumni and our broader community can engage with and enjoy what we are doing.
What changes are in store in the coming year?
One of my goals is to complete and execute the facilities master plan. We’ll need to fundraise in order to accomplish this goal and to ensure that our coaches have the resources they need to match the expectations that have been outlined for them.
I also want to change the culture. In order to be a successful Division I program, we need everyone to be engaged and to participate at one level or another. Santa Clara is a really special place. The University hasn’t invested in intercollegiate athletics in over two decades, but now they’ve made a decision to do so. It’s a really exciting moment for everyone in involved.
What impact can the experience have on a young person who is interested in athletics?
I have two daughters and I can say that experiencing the excitement of collegiate athletics from a young age had a tremendous impact on both of them. The culture at SCU is very fan-friendly. I think the fans who participate in these early stages will ultimately have a lot of fun watching what transpires as our program grows and changes in the coming years.
You were a student athlete and a coach. What advice do you have for parents or families who either have a student athlete, or hope to nurture a student athlete?
My best advice to parents is to make sure you find the right fit for your son or daughter. If you want them to have nurturing and holistic experience, then Santa Clara is a place where we provide that.
How do you measure success within the program?
The quantitative stuff is easy. You can look at the win-loss record and the academic achievements of the student athletes and know where you stand. But, I’m measuring success by much more than the quantitative data. I’m looking at each program to assess where they started when I arrived and whether they are progressing at the right trajectory. Every program is measured independently.
I’m also evaluating the athletics program as a whole. We pay close attention to what our students go on to do after graduation. We want them to be successful. It’s a very holistic view.
Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?
I think about our athletic program like a baseball diamond. In the middle, on the pitcher’s mound, is the student athlete. Every day we are trying to make decisions based on what’s best for that individual. First base is academics. We’re going to make sure that every student athlete at SCU graduates. Second base is about compliance. We’re not going to cross lines, cheat, or break rules. Third base is about making sure our student athletes have the resources to meet the expectations that have been set forth. And, finally, these student athletes come to Santa Clara because they want to win championships and compete at the highest level—home plate. If we’ve done our job well, it circles back to the pitcher’s mound and the individual athlete, who has had a great experience while here at SCU.