GREAT FALLS — Since Dave Gantt took control of the athletics program at the University of Providence two years ago, the Argos have seen non-stop growth. And Wednesday, they added another big piece to the front office.
Longtime Great Falls coach, educator and businessman Mark Schulte was introduced as the Assistant Athletic Director for Corporate and External Operations at an afternoon press conference. He’ll be tasked with increasing revenue through marketing and securing sponsorships and funding for teams and facilities.
“I am going to be out in the streets, the face of the University of Providence,” Schulte said. “More than anything with marketing is knowing people. I know a lot of people in this town and it’s a wonderful town as far as how they’ve supported the high schools. Great Falls means a lot to me, and this university has committed to Great Falls. And now it’s time, it’s time for Great Falls to commit to this university.”
Gantt believes adding Schulte to the team was essential to the future goals of the department and the school.
“The end goal is to be financially self-sufficient. That’s going to take five years to a decade,” Gantt said. “But we’re doing it for all the right reasons. We’re going to do things at a higher level.”
The former Gonzaga University volleyball coach points to his old school as a model of what he hopes the University of Providence can become with the right people and the right plans in place.
“I didn’t come from a place that was dysfunctional, and so a lot of this is mirroring Gonzaga’s system,” Gantt said. “And if you look there, they had 8,000 applicants for 1,200 spots in the freshman class. That’s where we want to be. We want to be at a level where we can be selective, so we’ve got this shift going from survival to a lot better, to way above average to now, let’s chase the big dogs.”
Of course that could potentially mean adding more sports programs including the white whale, a football team, that’s been discussed for decades in Great Falls.
Given Schulte’s rich background as a football player and coach, is the school positioning itself to pull the trigger on college pigskin?
Not right now. But never say never.
“They don’t add programs here unless it’s financially stable to do that,” Schulte said. “Football has always been a part of my life, and I love the game and it’s done so much for me. But that is 100 percent up to Dave Gantt and up to president (Tony) Aretz as far as what those goals are in those programs. What we want to do right now is on the short term side of things, go after the goals that we have right now and stay committed to those.”
In the short term, things are looking up. The Argos have added several new programs in the past few years including men’s and women’s hockey, women’s wrestling and eSports. The athletics facilities have also received a facelift, with the addition of a new dedicated wrestling complex and a refinished gymnasium complete with brand-new bleacher seats.
So football or not, more growth and change is on the horizon in Great Falls.
“We’re trying to build it so we can do whatever is next and makes the most sense,” Gantt added. “So we’re building it with a base that’s going to be capable of supporting football. That’s going to happen. If we get football is another story, and it’s simply financial. If we build the base, our odds are better. And that’s what we’re doing right now.”