STOCKTON – Janet Lucas doesn’t mind going first, no matter what challenge awaits her.
She was the first female intern in the training room at one school, and the first female business manager at another. And in May Lucas became the first woman to become the fulltime athletic director at University of the Pacific.
Much has changed since she began her career in college athletics more than 35 years ago, and she said there has been a welcomed “cultural shift” which has made the situation better for women coaches, athletes and administrators.
“I had a lot of ‘firsts’ along the way, that there hadn’t been a female before me who had done what I’ve done,” Lucas said during the most recent episode of the 209 Overtime Podcast.
“It was very much about people who were willing to open doors and me pushing on those doors a bit. I got some no’s along the way.”
If there’s one quality she brings to her new job, its perseverance. During the interview she told the tale of an internship she really wanted, but had almost lost before she could even interview for it.
“The internship that I wanted from graduate school I literally was told I really didn’t need to interview because they were looking for a male,” Lucas said. “So I said I think I’m going to interview anyway, it would be a great experience and let’s see where it goes. And I did get the internship.”
Now she has made history at Pacific. Lucas was hired to replace the retired Ted Leland in April, and took over the 18-team athletic department in May. Cindy Spiro was the interim athletic director at Pacific in 1996-97.
Lucas said the first few months have been about listening and learning, and she has a clear idea of the course she wants to set for the athletic department.
“We do, in athletics, automatically focus on winning. But I define winning in a slightly different way when I talk to our student-athletes,” Lucas said. “It starts with a winning attitude and a winning effort. And it’s about the best people they can be every day.
"We focus on success, but success is very broad. Academics is part of it, being a visible, contributing part of the community is part of it, and of course winning in competition is part of it. But it’s not the only thing we do.”
Among the challenges she faces is dealing with various financial issues. Last year, the Pacific athletic department went over budget by $4 million. Lucas said the perception of athletics “took a bit of a hit.”
“Part of what I have been directed to do is to balance this budget,” Lucas said. “That is at the center of a lot of the decision making right now, because we want to be a very positive, productive partner on campus.”
She came to the Tigers from UC Riverside, where she had been the executive associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator at UC Riverside. She was named the administrator of the year for NCAA Division I in 2015 by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, currently known as the Women Leaders in College Sport.
Contact reporter Scott Linesburgh at (209) 546-8282 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@ScottLinesburgh.