If it's important for the salesman to first sell himself, Rick Dickson is off to a good start as Washington State University athletic director.
Rick Dickson yesterday expressed a fondness for Pullman and confidence in himself while taking a cautious approach about the Cougars' athletic future during a news conference at a downtown hotel.
"What Pullman does show us is an environment where I think our children can do extremely well," Dickson said. "It doesn't bother me at all for my children to grow up where `Back To The Future' is almost a reality.
"I think it's a nice, wholesome community."
Clearly, Pullman's small-town environment helped convince Dickson, 39, and his wife, Brenda, that the time was right for them to leave their native Oklahoma, where Rick had been athletic director at Tulsa University the past four years.
"I've got four young children . . . and that was a strong consideration about whether we could move," Dickson said. "We realized that if we did, then this was probably the appropriate time with the idea that they would not see another move during their childhood."
Dickson signed a five-year contract with a salary of $115,000 a year, said Sallie Giffen, vice president for business affairs and the senior administrator for athletics. Dickson replaces Jim Livengood, who became AD at Arizona in January.
After Dickson and Allen Bohl, athletic director at Toledo, were named finalists for the WSU position, some Cougar backers were concerned that "one of their own" had not been chosen. There was support for Bill Moos, former WSU athletic administrator from Olympia. Moos is the athletic director at Montana.
Dickson, a "favorite son" in Tulsa, said he understands that attitude. But being "home grown" does not guarantee success, he said.
"I'll tell you that the (search) committee chose the best candidate for the job," he said. "I don't mean that in a boastful way, but I'm just telling you my feelings about it."
Dickson said his supporters include Livengood, who was AD for seven years, Sam Jankovich, Cougar AD from 1976-83, and Tom Hansen, Pac-10 Conference commissioner.
Dickson said he is beginning his new job without an agenda. He first wants to assess the degree of support for athletics on campus before turning to the community.
The Cougars' average attendance of 27,000 for home football games last season was last in the Pac-10.
"From what I've seen it (support) is divided into two market areas - the 100-mile circumference around Pullman and west of the Cascades," Dickson said.
He envisions marketing programs that would make Pullman accessible to supporters in Lewiston, Idaho, Spokane and the Tri-Cities. "And the other thing is what we do to address the Seattle market," he said.
Dickson is scheduled to begin his new job April 15. Before then, he hopes to secure Tulsa's membership in a Division I football league. The Golden Hurricane has been playing as an independent.
Among his first tasks at WSU are hiring a women's soccer coach to replace Lisa Fraser (hired by Livengood at Arizona) and a baseball coach to replace Bobo Brayton (retiring after this season).
Dickson also is expected to be involved in deciding whether the Cougars should accept a $500,000 guarantee in exchange for moving its 1994 home football game against USC to Japan.