Q&A: Athletics

“We want our athletic program to be the best it can possibly be, but we’re doing it within the structure that works for the full University.” — Mollie Marcoux ’91
Ricardo Barros

Whether pacing nervously in the Roberts Stadium concourse or sheltering under an umbrella at the West Windsor Fields, Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux ’91 feels at home watching Princeton teams compete. “I’m a complete sports junkie,” says Marcoux, a former two-sport standout who took over the department last August. She spoke with PAW about her first months on the job and her goals for the future.

What was on your agenda for your first year?

To listen as much as possible. In the first two weeks, I met with every head coach for an hour or an hour and a half. I wanted to hear their philosophy, I wanted to hear their approach, I wanted to hear about the challenges they face.

Then I expanded out to meet with people around the University. One of my big goals is to make sure that athletics is fully integrated into the University community. We like to say it’s the team around the team. We can’t do it alone.

What did you take away from that process?

I was blown away by the coaches and all the specific things they have to do to make their teams great. Each coach has to manage within their own personality and their own belief system, but at the heart of what they do, they are all very student-athlete centered. They know that their job is to provide the best possible experience.

What do you think makes a coaching candidate a good fit for Princeton?

The candidate has to understand the importance of the balance between academics and athletics at Princeton. They have to understand that we are striving to be excellent at both, and there’s no debate about that. We want our athletic program to be the best it can possibly be, but we’re doing it within the structure that works for the full University.

How does the student-athlete experience today compare to your experience as an undergraduate?

I think it’s better. The resources are better for our athletes. Our coaches are top-notch, so they are providing that full experience. I loved my experience here. It was one of the most important experiences that I’ve had in my life. But I do think that the full administrative effort and the full University effort are much stronger now.

Looking forward, what do you hope to improve?

I’m a big fan of having the right facilities. They don’t have to be the over-the-top facilities that some campuses are building, but I think that facilities are important. So we’re focusing a bit on where we need to improve and upgrade.

Football is the only sport in which Ivy teams cannot play in the NCAA playoffs. Would you like to see the league lift the postseason ban?

Ultimately, yes, I’d like to see the kids be able to have a postseason competition. They work so hard during the season that it would be great to have that next opportunity. There are certainly challenges with it — we want to balance the time commitment and the strain on the body. But to me, instinctually, it would be nice to have that next opportunity.

Interview conducted and condensed by Brett Tomlinson