The Torre Chisholm era of Portland State athletics is quickly drawing to a close. As of this Halloween, Chisholm will be leaving his post as athletic director to pursue other career opportunities.
Chisholm left UC Irvine in May 2007 to begin his work at PSU, which makes his nearly seven and a half years as a Viking the longest and perhaps most impactful tenure of any AD in PSU history. PSU has undergone a revitalization during Chisholm’s reign.
Some accomplishments of PSU athletics over the past seven seasons include first-ever invitations to the NCAA March Madness tournament for both women’s and men’s basketball; 21 total conference and conference tournament titles; an academic resuscitation, which has resulted in the propulsion of a men’s basketball program that was once levied with penalties into the top academic decile in the nation; and, of course, and perhaps most central to the continued evolution of PSU athletics, the Viking Pavilion.
“At the end of the day the thing to be most proud of is actually the progress on the Viking Pavilion,” Chisholm said. “It’s been a project that the university has needed to do for 30-plus years. I’m proud that I was in a position to really champion it and push it forward. Now we’re on the verge—it’s going to happen. Of all the things, that has been the most invigorating.”
Part of what makes the progress on the Viking Pavilion such an important juncture for PSU athletics is not only what it will mean long-term for revenue and recruitment capabilities, but how it’s been a fulcrum for PSU’s burgeoning fundraising stratagem. During his time at PSU, Chisholm was integral to the securing of the four largest donations the program has ever received: donations of $5 million, $4 million, $2.5 million and $2 million. In addition to these large gifts, athletic scholarships have increased by 60 percent—which is also a product of a more successful approach to fundraising.
“I’d say it was two things that really facilitated that. One: the willingness to think big. To realize that we’re a great institution, that we have a marquee program, and we’re deserving of people supporting us at the highest possible level, so putting a focus on fundraising was a big part of it…and secondly, a lot of those gifts, although not all, but a lot of those gifts, were related to the Viking Pavilion. So the next piece was to create an exciting, engaging project that people wanted to invest in,” Chisholm said.
However, the continued success of PSU athletics is reliant upon a well-rounded and balanced approach to increasing all areas of athletics—not simply the facilities. One of the major achievements is what PSU has done academically for student-athletes.
This particular turnaround, said Chisholm, has been a real team effort. It’s been a systematic approach by coaches and academic advisers to provide added support for student-athletes.
“For me the focus is to make sure that our personnel who work here understand that that is what we’re here for first and foremost, and we don’t just give lip service to the academic piece, but that is central to what we do here…Making sure that our student-athletes are successful academically, making sure we fulfill our mission as part of the university’s academic endeavors,” Chisholm said.
The transition to the next AD is an ongoing, fluid process. As of now, it is unknown who will step in for Chisholm. PSU has posted the position, and hopes to have it filled not too long after Chisholm departs from PSU.
Initially, the new AD will evaluate the program for a little while, while also taking instruction from the president, and then he or she will craft a five-year plan for the direction of the program.
Looking back at his own plans when he entered PSU, Chisholm is proud of what has been accomplished. He concedes that he wishes the Pavilion were further along than it is (he estimates the project is roughly a year and a half behind schedule), and that the football program had made more advancements than it has during his time at PSU.
“The only other thing that was beyond my initial five-year plan that we haven’t accomplished would be a championship in football. We put a lot into it; there is a lot of moving pieces. Football is one of the most competitive sports in the country and we just haven’t quite reached that pinnacle yet.”
Chisholm plans to spend some downtime in California before returning to work. He is looking forward to the free time that hasn’t been forthcoming throughout his career, as he typically moves immediately from one position to the next. He will, however, continue to root for the Vikings—and, he assured me, he will not be missing the groundbreaking of the Viking Pavilion.