Children who play sports always dream big: Hitting the game-winning home run in the World Series, scoring the touchdown that wins that national championship, knocking down the game-winning jumper as time runs out in the Final Four.?

Brian Mackin had those same dreams. UAB's new athletics director also had aspirations of being a successful businessman, due in large part to his No. 1 mentor, his father Stan Mackin, the now-retired CEO and chairman of Regions Financial Corp.?

The younger Mackin chased his athletic dreams, playing baseball at UAB and continuing on for one year after school in the Houston Astros organization. Along the way he pursued success in the business world, graduating from UAB with a degree in finance. After his first year of pro ball, Mackin joined Vulcan Materials, where he held management positions in sales and market analysis. He became sales manager at Southern Ready Mix in 1990 and joined Dunn Construction in 1993, rising to vice president in 1999. His responsibilities included business development, sales and project management.?

"Academics were very important to me during my time as a student here," he says, "and they continue to be important to me today."?

Mackin was named the fourth athletics director in UAB history Feb. 14. He recently sat down with the UAB Reporter after his first few months on the job to discuss his goals for the athletics department and UAB's student athletes. Not surprisingly, academics were a key part of the discussion. ?

Q. You said at your introductory press conference that the athletics director job at UAB is your dream job. How have your first few months been? ?

A. My first priority, as I told President Garrison and everyone at the press conference, is academics. I knew coming in we had to go in and see where we were as a program academically, and it's taken me a lot of time to talk to all of the coaches, all of the staff, to evaluate what needs to be done to improve our academic standards. ?I really did a lot of internal work for the first two or three months. It was geared toward academics, reorganization of the athletics department and budgeting. ?

Q. You've mentioned on numerous occasions how academics are important to you and the overall success of UAB student athletes. How do you see academics playing into the overall quality of the athletics program??

A. If we don't have our academic standards in line with the NCAA we will face penalties with scholarship reductions. The Academic Progress Rate (APR) is the current standard the NCAA measures your progress with your student athletes, including their eligibility and retention. We've got several programs that are under those minimum standards. That's totally unacceptable to me, and that's totally unacceptable to President Garrison.

I've put together the Academic Reform Group, led by our senior leadership in the athletics department. We're evaluating every stage of the academic progress, from a student's initial eligibility and supporting their eligibility from freshman through their senior year, taking it and evaluating the APR standards. We're looking at every aspect of the academic element of the athletics department and we're going to improve that. We hope to have a report to President Garrison by September outlining our five-year plan for academics. ?

Q. There have been several successes on the academic front as well, correct? ?

A. We've got several athletics programs that are doing extremely well. We're very proud of them. We also don't want to lose sight and take that for granted. We want to do everything we can to continue to support them and make sure they stay on that level and then help those teams that need to move above the minimum standards. ?

Q. What people and what other things have gotten you to this point, where you're ready to run a major Division-I athletics program? ?

A. When I look back on my career as a student athlete and 18-plus years in the business world where I managed people, managed budgets - that really prepared me for becoming an athletics director. Now, I'm managing what is essentially an $18 million company - it has every element that a business does. And it also has a lot of passion behind that. It's a very important job for our school and our community, and I take it very seriously. ?

Q. What are some of your top priorities for the athletics department for the upcoming year? ?

A. My three priorities are academics, facilities and taking care of our people. We intend to graduate every student athlete that comes in as a freshman. We're going to build facilities and push our capital campaign. ?The goal there is to get all of our teams competing on campus. We've still got several teams practicing and competing off campus and we need to have those groups on campus. That is my goal, along with enhancing some of the facilities we have on campus. The third thing is taking care of our people - that goes for our student athletes, coaches and administrators. I feel like, when I look at this athletics department, its people are its greatest strength. ?

Q. Facilities are always a hot topic on any college campus. What do you see in the future for facilities from an enhancement standpoint or in regards to new construction? ?

A. We'll have a five-year plan. We've already had the naming rights to the academic center, which is scheduled for completion in November. It will be named the Don M. and Marsha Hoke Hire Athletic Academic Center. Our weight and training rooms have been approved by the board, so we can go forward with them. The weight room is scheduled to be ready by January 2008 and the training room by April 2008.?

Our track has been renovated so our track team can practice on campus. Now we will go into the guts of the capital campaign, which includes a new football facility that will house the coaches' offices, meeting rooms and new locker room for the football team.

We will build an on-campus softball field. We will enhance the baseball facility - bigger press box, locker rooms. We will build a tennis complex, and we will have a permanent stands, locker room and facility at the soccer complex. I view that as a five-year plan to build those facilities. We're working very hard to accomplish that goal. I think our student athletes, coaches and fans deserve that. ?

Q. Is there anything else you would like for the faculty and staff to know about you and your goals? ?

A. Just that I am very committed to the academic future of our student athletes. We have tremendous faculty and staff that have been very supportive of athletics. I hope to enhance that relationship and commit that I will work very hard to make our academic programs very special and something that everyone can be proud of.