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Rose Looks Back On 28 Years Leading UNCC's Sports Program

UNC Charlotte's Judy Rose will step down next week as the schools athletic director after 28 years.
Lisa Worf

As UNC Charlotte prepares to introduce its new athletics director Mike Hill Tuesday, a conversation with the school’s outgoing athletics director Judy Rose. She’s one of a few women to hold that position at a NCAA Division I school. When she was first offered the job in 1990, she recalls being nervous about it. 

“Because, in my mind, I didn’t have any female role models that I knew that were sitting athletic directors,” says Rose.

Rose has been with the school since 1975. During her 28 years as athletics director, she oversaw the addition of several new sports, including football, and the construction of $100 million worth of athletic facilities.

Rose stopped by our studio to talk about the changes she’s seen in college sports over the decades and two role models she ended up finding, in part, thanks to a suggestion from former Chancellor Jim Woodward.

JUDY ROSE: He said role models do not have to be gender-specific. He said, “However, in Charlotte we have two very strong, female CEOs that, I know, would help mentor you.” One in Dale Halton, who was the president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola bottling company (her name is on many buildings and facilities on our campus), and the other is Pat Rodgers, who was in the construction business, CEO of Rodgers Builders. Both of them were in predominantly male-oriented professions as well.

MARSHALL TERRY: What did you learn from them?

ROSE: I learned what I didn't even know I was learning at the time. I remember I'd get a phone call from Dale or Pat and it would be, “Judy, we’re inviting you and your husband to come to sit at our table at the Red Sword Ball. It's a fundraiser for cancer and you need to be there because all the people you're going to need to see and interact with in Charlotte will be at this event. It's black tie. You need to be there.” And then I'd get another [invitation] a month later. I didn't know that game and it was unbelievably important for me. That's where the knowledge base came in. I needed to develop some type of relationship with those individuals before I was going to go and say, “Hey, we’re going to need some help building this building, since athletics doesn't get state funding.” It was a real well thought-out plan from them to get me invested and into the community.

TERRY: You became athletic director at UNC Charlotte in 1990. When you took that position – again, one of the few women to hold such a position at the time - how did people treat you differently?

ROSE: I wasn't treated very differently. I only had one instance that I remember where I thought a male really was trying to take advantage maybe a little bit. I think because of my gender he was trying to make it more of a male-female kind of thing and I let him know in a hurry I had absolutely no interest in that whatsoever. I never had another instance like that at all. Not at all.

TERRY: You were a college athlete in the early 70s when Title IX was passed. How have college athletics changed since then?

Oh wow! I played basketball at Winthrop and we rode on a painted school bus. Because class was so important - I remember biology and anatomy, in particular -  we would take a box of bones for a test the next day and we would take them on the bus and we'd take flashlights for when we came back. There weren't lights on the bus. We got $1 in meal money, so you had to supplement it with your own money. And we also had to sell little lapel pins and doughnuts and things to help fund our trips….Fast forward to now and the young women today have no idea of what it was like back then. And that's a good thing. But part of me wants them to know how far it has come because now our female student athletes fly on planes, just like our men fly on planes, if they're going to games and they charter and they get a whole lot more than $1 in meal money and should. And [back then] we didn't even really have a true athletic trainer. If you got hurt, you would go to the infirmary on campus, but you didn't have somebody at the game ready to take care of your needs.

Lately, Rose has faced criticism for her decision to fire Mark Price, the 49ers men’s basketball coach, while keeping football coach Brad Lambert after a 1 and 11 season. Rose says that’s not a fair comparison. 

ROSE: We started a football program from scratch. I mean, we didn't own a football. We didn't have a facility. Our intent initially was to compete at the FCS level and not the FBS level. It's a totally different enterprise. When we had the opportunity to potentially move up faster, much faster, than we anticipated, we made a decision as a university, knowing that it was going to affect the outcome of our wins and losses to move up a division, to the highest level of football, before we were ready. So the first year we were competing in Conference USA was our third year of football. I don't look at one year. I'm looking at the total picture, the body of work

TERRY: Did the criticism factor into your retirement announcement in any way?

The announcement, yes, but not the time I was going to retire. My husband and I have talked for the last year-and-a-half about my retirement. My husband's been retired for 20 years. This job is 24/7 and it's 24/7 when you're a coach too, so I've had 43 years of 24/7.

TERRY: What will you miss the most?

The people and the young people. You’re going to make me get emotional. I have had a fabulous staff. The thing I've enjoyed the most is watching our student athletes when they come in as freshmen - many, many of them first generation, who could not have afforded to come to college any other way - and the challenges that maybe they had to get to that point. And when you see them four years later and they're walking across that stage with a diploma, knowing that their life is going to be far better than the life they had when they first came.

Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.