UConn Magazine Archives


UConn Magazine is produced in print three times a year, in January, May and September.

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Q
Why UConn?
A
Great brand. Great history and tradition. The opportunity to win at the highest level in multiple sports. The opportunity and the availability and interest of alums, fans, friends of the University that have already supported at a significant level, and/or have the interest in continuing to support, in addition to there being other friends and alums that have the capacity to support. I believe philanthropy and support of the University, as well as the athletic program, is key. Not every University has an alumni base that has the capacity to support.
Q
You’ve been here almost three months. What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened so far? Or something surprising?
A
I think that anytime you come into a new situation, you certainly might have an expectation or some preconceived notion of what it’s going to be like. I can say that without question, the people have been the best thing – whether that be the head coaches, University leadership, or our fans – the people are tremendous here, and everybody has a deep passion for UConn, and the desire to see us be successful in all areas of academics and athletics.

My first day on campus, I was here for our game on Saturday, the first NCAA tournament game that we hosted here. That was a pretty unique experience because I had not met Coach Auriemma personally yet. We had talked on the phone after my press conference because we did not get a chance to interact that day, and after the game, CD – Chris Dailey – invited me to come back into, not their locker room but kind of a holding room. I thought that was very gracious of them, because they had just won a big game, they’re clearly focused and on a mission to win their fourth national championship [in a row], and here I am brand new, they don’t really even know me, and they’re inviting me back. What was interesting was that we were able to have a conversation after the game and it was like we had known each other a long time. It was very comfortable, and I attribute that to the good people we have at UConn.

Q
Has there been anything really challenging that you’ve faced so far?
A
I think that the challenging thing right now for UConn is that there is a desire, a strong desire, on all fronts for us to be able to compete at the highest level in college athletics. And right now, there is a perception that that means that we need to change conferences. I think the challenge is that certainly that’s something we need to be aware of, it’s certainly something that we need to be thinking about, but at the same time, we also need to be present and thinking about how to be successful in the current conference that we’re in, and continuing to build our programs, invest in our facilities, and build the conference that we’re in. Because right now the American is our conference, and we need to make sure that it’s as strong as it possibly can be.
Q
You’ve been in athletics pretty much your whole life. What’s your favorite sport to play? Do you still play sports?
A
Well certainly growing up, football was my favorite, but four knee surgeries later, golf is probably my favorite sport – if you want to call golf a sport. It certainly is a more leisurely sport, and for my knees and my back, it certainly is more enjoyable for me.
Q
And what’s your favorite sport to watch?
A
[Benedict laughs]
Q
You don’t need to be too political.
A
It’s really, to me, it’s not necessarily about the sport. It’s about the competition, and I enjoy seeing a group or a team that works together and that competes at a very high level, and goes out and leaves it all on the court, or the field. I really, really enjoyed watching all the games in the NCAA tournament. Our women’s basketball team here is amazing, and they play at such a high level, and they play like a team. And that’s special. But I enjoyed going to all the baseball games in post-season, and watching that team achieve at a level that maybe some didn’t predict that they would have that level of success. So, I think it’s more, to me, about watching a group of individuals come together as a team and compete at a very high level and leave it all on the field of play.
Q
You’ve worked in a bunch of different places throughout the country. Not including UConn, so you don’t have to be too diplomatic – which has felt most like home to you?
A
Well, when I worked at Arizona State, that was home. I was born and raised in Arizona, so my 10 years at ASU, starting my career, that was a very comfortable situation for me because I knew a lot of people, I knew the history and tradition of the program, that was easy. Outside of Arizona State, people have asked me, how do you go from one place to another and quickly change allegiances? I think what you find is when you go, it’s about the coaches and the student-athletes, and it’s very easy once you get to know those people that you’re working with and supporting, then it’s very easy to begin to take ownership and root [for] and support those coaches and those student-athletes. I certainly continue to root for the previous places that I’ve been, and it’s just been fortunate that I have yet to go to a different place in the same conference. So I’ve never had to, on a regular basis, compete against a place that I’ve previously worked, which makes it easier. But obviously Arizona felt most like home, ‘cause it was.
Q
You were born and raised on the field with your dad being a football coach and AD [at Mesa Community College in Arizona]. You left athletics briefly to work in health care. So, what brought you back?
A
Wow. That’s a really good question. And I know exactly what brought me back. First of all, I think it’s important to note, the opportunity to work at Scottsdale Healthcare was a great opportunity. They have a tremendous health care system there, and my twin boys were born at one of the Scottsdale Healthcare hospitals. They were born premature, they spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit, so there was a personal tug on my heartstrings when the opportunity presented itself there. It meant a great deal to have the opportunity to go there and raise money to support that hospital system because of our personal interaction there.

What brought me back was really that, after having been at Scottsdale Healthcare for seven or eight months, I found myself in the office at the end of the day looking at the clock. And I had never experienced that before in my professional career. I had never looked at the clock and thought, ‘When’s it going to be time to go home?’ Because to me, in athletics, in this world – and it’s probably the same for people in other professions – but I see this more as a lifestyle than a profession, and the clock really doesn’t matter on a day-to-day basis. The only reason I’m looking at the clock nowadays is to make sure I’m on time to get to certain places. It’s not about, ‘When do I get to go home?’ And that was a personal struggle for me, because the work that was being done at Scottsdale Healthcare, whether it be research or through taking care of the people who came to those hospitals, was unbelievable. We were raising money to support and fight cancer. That’s an unbelievable privilege to be a part of something like that.

But everybody is driven by different things. My passion and my love is college athletics and higher education. And it became very clear to me that I needed to find a path back to work on a college campus.

Q
And where did you go back to from there?
A
I went to Long Beach State.
Q
You also played football at Mesa Community College and Southern Utah University. If you could’ve played any sport at any school in the country, what would you have played and where?
A
Do I get to answer that now with all my history and experience?
Q
Sure, yeah!
A
Knowing what I know now, I would have wanted to play football at a place like Auburn. Because college football is revered in that area of the country. And the fans are so passionate that it really is a special opportunity for the individuals that get to participate in that sport, in that area of the country, because of what a game day involves. You go to Tiger Walk and you get dropped off from the bus and there’s 20,000 people lined up, waiting for you to get off the bus and walk in to the stadium. It’s a special place. Having had the chance to work there for a couple years, I think all the individuals that get a chance to wear that uniform and walk into Jordan-Hare Stadium in front of 90-plus thousand people, have experienced something that most would only dream about.
Q
You played football, your wife is an accomplished gymnast [Benedict’s wife, formerly Lisa Zeis, was a four-time All-American and two-time National Champion at Arizona State]. Do your twin boys [Jake and Sam, 13] play sports?
A
They do. I like to say that the boys will compete in anything — if there’s a ball involved, they’re all in. We’re fortunate. I believe in athletics as a — I don’t know if the word “tool” is the right descriptor – I believe athletics is a great tool to develop individuals throughout their lives, because you’re constantly learning about yourself, and it forces you to develop work ethic, competitiveness, mental toughness. I’m happy that the boys are interested in athletics for those purposes. I don’t have a preference as to what sports the boys compete in, but I’m happy that they enjoy participating in sports because I think it’s a great way for kids to develop personally.
Q
So you wouldn’t have kicked them out of the family if they were into music or something?
A
[Laughs] No, not at all.
Q
Must be a good point of family bonding, though.
A
Yeah!
Q
What kind of dad are you?
A
What kind of dad. Well, I think that part of the downside of working in college athletics is that the time demands are significant. I’m very interested and engaged in what my boys are doing, and I’m sure most people would say they wish they could spend more time with their kids. And the beauty, I think, of being involved in college athletics, is it provides the opportunity to involve and engage my kids in my profession. And that means having the opportunity to bring them on college campuses, and see young men and young women compete, go to school, earn their degrees and graduate. I think they’ve had an opportunity to interact with both coaches and student-athletes on all the campuses where I’ve worked. And I believe that my kids are going to be better prepared, and ready to walk onto a college campus when it’s time for them, because they will have been on so many college campuses already that their comfort level, and their appreciation of what happens on a college campus is just going to be different from a lot of other kids because they don’t get that opportunity. So I think that it’s a special thing that they get to participate in because of my career. And they’ve also been the beneficiaries of being able to do things because of my job that a lot of kids don’t. They’ve been to a Final Four as part of a program that’s playing in it. They’ve gone to Bowl games. They’ve had the opportunity to get on a chartered plane and travel someplace, where I didn’t get on my first airplane until I was probably 20 years old. There’s some give and take to it, but I think it’s well worth it.
Q
What’s your top priority for UConn Athletics now that you’re here?
A
Competitive excellence. And that would be both athletically and academically.
Q
And where do you see the program 5, 10 years down the road? Any changes?
A
I would like to think that 5 or 10 years down the road, that we will have a continuation of the level of success that we’ve had previously, but there would be a continued enhancement and investment in our facilities, so that all of our programs have facilities like football and basketball do right now. And that we would also have full venues, meaning that our fans were engaged, we have an unbelievable game day experience at all of our venues, and because of that, we’ve got full stadiums and arenas. We [would] have very competitive programs that are competing for conference championships on an annual basis, and from time to time, we’re also winning national championships – if not on a regular basis, as the women have done over the last four years. I think from a conference standpoint, that picture is ever-changing. I could say that I think we’re going to be in a specific conference, but that conference may or may not exist 5 to 10 years from now. If you look at the history, especially how it relates to conferences, there are conferences that don’t exist anymore that used to be very strong conferences. I think it’s going to be a fun decade to see how things unfold in college athletics, but the most important thing for us is to focus on the competitive excellence piece, continuing to invest in our athletics programs and facilities, and lastly, create a game day experience that’s second to none.

—Julie Bartucca ’10 (BUS, CLAS)

Discuss

  1. Cynthia Benedict says:

    David is my son so I’m biased. He has made me proud every day of his life. I assume other people respect him because of all the great places he has worked. He is thrilled to be the AD at U Conn and I’m sure he will make every effort to continue his record of excellence.

  2. Cynthia Benedict says:

    My pleasure!!

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